According to a new national study dealing with hearing loss, people under the age of 50 who abuse opioid-based prescription drugs, are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss. At the same time, they are also likely to have addiction problems to alcohol and other drugs.
Researchers suggest that this makes it essential for doctors and other health workers to take extra care when prescribing pain medication and treating mental health conditions in young adults with hearing loss or complete deafness.
An article jointly published by a team at the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare in the April 2019 edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that out of 86,186 persons with hearing loss, the under the 50s who had a hearing loss problem were more likely to suffer from substance abuse. The same can’t be said for the over 50’s where no significant increase to substance abuse could be found.
The study also factored in other issues such as economic, social and mental health. Interestingly enough, adults under the age of 35 with hearing loss were found to have two and a half times rate of suffering problems with prescription opioid abuse. Participants between the ages of 35 – 49 were nearly twice likely to have addiction problems related to both prescription opioids and excessive alcohol consumption.
Can the same problems be noticed in other parts of the world? Interestingly, Alcohol Concern which is behind the UK concept of Dry January, suggests that the same issue may apply to the UK. The UK has a serious problem with binge drinking, and it has been noticed that many young binge drinkers suffer from hearing loss.
It is not exactly clear how alcohol and other kinds of substance abuse can cause hearing problems. More research is needed but it is believed a range of factors need to be taken into account.
Alcohol and drugs can’t damage the outer ear, but they can certainly cause damage to the inner and the nervous system. Our hearing is depended on a range of impulses, and when the centre of the brain which controls hearing is damaged by alcohol and drug abuse, it can lead to hearing loss.
More research is needed, but it is also thought that the small hairs in the ears can be damaged by excessive drug and alcohol use. Once a hair dies, it will not grow back thus causing hearing loss.
The results in one recent study show that a shocking percentage of 90% of participants suffered some hearing loss after heavy drinking. Particularly affected were lower end frequencies. This is where we pick up and listen to voice and other spoken auditory signals. Maybe this is why so many drunk people start to shout after they have been drinking for a while.
As this seems to be a two-fold problem. People who already experiencing hearing loss drink too much, and those who drink in excess are at risk from developing hearing loss, is not about time we took a look at what care can be given.
Most importantly we need to recognise that this is an actual problem. Secondly, we need to do something about it. Combating hearing loss may, in fact, lead to fewer people suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. This will in itself have a positive impact on society. Once we deal with their hearing problems, they will start to feel much more included and this will cut down on any abusive behavior to cover up their problem.
Up until now, the focus has been very much on liver and heart disease in young people when it comes to drinking. Focusing on nervous and hearing loss problems will add another dimension to the seriousness of drinking in excess.
Once hearing loss has occurred, our current level of medicine does not allow us to restore it. It could be a good idea to test hearing loss in young heavy drinkers. If it is found to be excessive, the persons concerned clearly need advice and guidance on how they can cut down on their alcohol consumption.
NHS resources are limited, and it could be best to find your own private solution to the problem if you are concerned about any hearing loss that you may be suffering from as a result of drinking or drug abuse.