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

You’re probably aware that the US . is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 people daily. 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 those under the age of fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating nearly 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the individual is. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what was found by this research:

  • 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.
  • In terms of hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse.
  • People were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be abused by this group.

Hope and Solutions

Those numbers are shocking, particularly because experts have already taken into account issues like class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a relationship. Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:

  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than normal. In cases like this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They might agree to recommendations of pain medication without fully listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, it’s common for people to self medicate, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications protocols be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. In other words, 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 out help when we need it.

Don’t be scared to ask questions of your doctors such as:

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this drug 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 impact your general health.

In addition, if you believe you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be checked. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing examination today.

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