The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. More than 130 people are dying each day from an overdose. There is a link, which you may not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and loss of hearing.
According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and conducted by a team at the University of Michigan, there’s a link between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who have hearing loss.
After evaluating approximately 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Unfortunately, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.
Here’s what this specific study found:
- People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. They were also usually more likely to abuse other things, like alcohol.
- In terms of hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
- People were twice as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
Solutions and Hope
Because experts have already taken into account economics and class so those figures are particularly staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we need to do something about it, right? Well, that can be a problem without understanding the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers had a couple of theories:
- Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than normal. In situations such as this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully listening to the concerns, or they might mishear dosage directions.
- Social isolation: 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, 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.
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
Whether hearing loss is increased by these incidents, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the negative consequences are the same to your health.
Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it
The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency departments work very hard to ensure that their communication protocols are up to date and being implemented. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be very helpful.
Don’t be scared to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Is this medication addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there a different medication available that is less dangerous?
- Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternate options?
If you are uncertain how a medicine will impact your general health, what the risk are and how they should be taken, you shouldn’t take then home.