Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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 daily from an overdose. There is a connection, 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 from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from loss of hearing.

Approximately 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the link to begin with, unfortunately, is still not clear.

Here’s what this specific research found:

  • When it comes to hearing loss, people older than fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be abused by this group.

Hope and Solutions

Because experts have already taken into consideration class and economics so those figures are particularly shocking. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:

  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In these situations, it’s common for people to self medicate, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a rush, 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 may agree to suggestions of pain medicine without completely listening to the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.

Whether these incidents increase loss of hearing, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the damaging consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication standards 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 people. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought help when we need it.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there a different medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

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

Additionally, if you believe you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can increase your health care expenses by 26%. Schedule a hearing examination today.

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.
Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call or Text Us