Hearing Health Blog

Young man with hearing loss drinking more alcohol than he should.

You most likely are aware that the US . is facing an opioid crisis. Over 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. But what you might not be aware of is that there is a troubling connection between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and carried out by a team from the University of Michigan, there’s a link between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who have loss of hearing.

After evaluating nearly 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that link in the first place.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • People who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
  • People were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. They were also usually more likely to abuse other substances, like alcohol.
  • People who developed hearing loss over the age of fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.

Solutions and Hope

Because experts have already accounted for economics and class so those numbers are especially staggering. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a relationship. Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:

  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In situations like these, self-medication can be relatively common, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they may not get proper treatment. They may not hear dosage advise or other medication instructions.

Whether hearing loss is made worse by these situations, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the harmful consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications standards be kept up to date by doctors and emergency departments. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the signs of hearing loss in younger people. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

Don’t be nervous to ask questions of your doctors like:

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? Are there alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medicines unless you are crystal clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they influence your general health.

Additionally, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you might already be suffering from loss of hearing. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care expenses by 26%. Schedule a hearing examination today.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss! Call Us