Hearing Health Blog

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

You most likely are aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. More than 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. But what you may not be aware of is that there is a disturbing connection between loss of hearing 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 those under the age of fifty who suffer from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating around 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. Sadly, it’s still not well known what causes that link in the first place.

Here’s what this specific research found:

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

Hope and Solutions

Because experts have already taken into consideration class and economics so those numbers are especially shocking. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Remember, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:

  • Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a rush than normal. In cases like this, a patient may not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They may not hear dosage information or other medication guidelines.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, self-medication can be relatively common, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, 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.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these situations, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to make sure that their communication methods are up to date and being followed. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I become addicted to this drug? Is there a different medicine that is safer for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they impact your general health.

Additionally, if you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care expenses by 26%. Schedule a hearing exam right away.

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