Research Shows a Connection Between Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss

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

You’re probably aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals daily. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a troubling link 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 connection between those under fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating around 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what was discovered by this research:

  • Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers. They were also usually more likely to misuse other substances, such as alcohol.
  • When it comes to hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse.

Solutions and Hope

Those figures are shocking, particularly because experts have already accounted for concerns such as economics and class. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, 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.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, 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.
  • Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. Sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In situations such as this, a patient may not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without completely listening to the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication protocols are up to date and being implemented. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the signs of hearing loss in younger individuals. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this drug addictive? Is there an alternative medicine that is safer for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this medication ototoxic? Are there alternate options?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medicines unless you are completely clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they influence your general health.

Additionally, if you think you have hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.