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

The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals daily. There is a link, which you may not be aware of, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.

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 alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.

Nearly 86,000 people participated in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Sadly, 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 problem than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • In terms of hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be misused by this group.

Solutions and Hope

Because researchers have already taken into account economics and class so those figures are especially staggering. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:

  • 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 usual. In situations like this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage directions.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, 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.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, 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.

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

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to make sure that their communication protocols are up to date and being implemented. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I get addicted to this medication? Do I actually need it, or is there a different medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? What are the alternatives?

If you are unsure of how a medicine will affect your general health, what the dangers are and how they should be used, you shouldn’t take then home.

In addition, if you think you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get tested. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing exam right away.

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