Latest research findings suggest hearing loss prior to the age of 50 increases the risk of alcohol and drug abuse. These patients have higher rates of opioid misuse twice as much as those who can hear. They are also more likely to abuse alcohol.
The research findings suggest that doctors need to take extra care of their patients with hearing loss to reduce the risk of substance abuse.
The study looked at data from 86,186 adult’s part of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Even after adjusting for other factors the relationship still remained among those under 50 with hearing loss and substance abuse.
Research lead Michael McKee explained, “Hearing loss is connected with a variety of health problems, including mental and physical health, that may place these individuals at risk for pain disorders. Also, the marginalizing effects of hearing loss, such as social isolation, may be creating higher rates of substance use disorders too.”
The researchers suggests that many patients are put on opioid treatment for pain management and that is what can set them up on addiction and abuse. “It may be easier to write a prescription rather than engage in complex patient-provider communication between a hearing provider and non-hearing patient,” McKee added.
Another part of the problem is lack of awareness of doctors of their younger patient’s level of hearing loss. He continued, “We need to first inquire and ensure effective and accessible communication with our patients. We need to be willing to engage in a dialogue to explore the root of their pain/mental health issues rather than just dispensing a prescription that may lead to dependency or addiction.”
He suggests that doctor’s should not just assume their patients abilities and through proper communication uncover the real underlying issues of their patients and obtain a better understanding of their patient’s ability to hear.