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People suffering from hearing loss and under the age of 50 are more likely to have abused prescription opioids, alcohol, and other drugs suggested a recent study. The findings warrant extra caution when treating mental health disorders and pain in hard-of-hearing and deaf young adults.
The research was undertaken by a team from the University of Michigan and Veteran Affairs (VA) Ann Arbor Healthcare System. The findings were obtained from a data of 86,186 adults who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Altogether, it was discovered that the possibility of having a substance use disorder (SUD) of any kind was stronger in individuals under 50 with hearing loss, compared to others in the same age group. The rate of substance abuse was found to be same in people who were over 50 with hearing loss in comparison to those without hearing loss in the same age group. The differences held even after adjustments were made for parameters like economic, social, and mental health between the hard-of-hearing and hearing populations.
Moreover, the risk of prescription opioid abuse increased by 2.5 times in adults with hearing loss who were under the age of 35 and the risk of alcohol abuse and prescription opioid abuse was double in individuals between the age 35 and 49 years with hearing loss.
Hearing problems makes one vulnerable to substance use
The research was led by Dr. Michael McKee after he observed that a lot of his young patients with hearing problems were also struggling with SUDs. Dr. McKee has a Deaf Health Clinic where he offers mental health care and primary care to hard-of-hearing and deaf patients of Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan’s academic medical center. According to him, hearing loss is linked with a hoard of physical and mental ailments which puts these patients at risk of pain disorders. In addition, hearing loss also results in isolation and discrimination, which puts these patients at risk of substance abuse as well.
Healthcare providers place their patients with hearing loss on controlled substances for faster alleviation of pain, however, this may lead to a higher rate of prescription opioid abuse, mainly because of communication hurdles. Rather than engaging in complicated dialogue with their non-hearing patients, the hearing providers find it easier to write down a prescription. However, according to the research, there is also a lack of awareness amongst the healthcare providers about the extent of hearing loss of their young patients.
Better communication required between patient and healthcare provider
Overall, serious hearing loss or deafness was reported by 5 percent of the individuals of all ages participating in the survey. For those under the age of 35, the percentage was 1.5 percent, and it was 2.2 percent for those between 35 and 49. For those over the age of 50, the percentage increased significantly to 9.4. According to Dr. McKee, who himself uses a cochlear implant to manage his own hearing loss, the healthcare providers were more aligned with the older patients when it came to prescription concerns and communication and this might have led to avoidance of multiple prescription use disorders.
Dr. McKee emphasized the fact that there is a need to have accessible and effective communication with the patients. The healthcare professionals should be forthcoming in engaging in a dialogue with their patients for exploring the underlying causes of their mental health issues of pain instead of just writing a prescription which might offshoot dependency or addiction. Therefore, each patient must be addressed uniquely, using universal communication precautions. He also noted that a dearth of resources for addressing addiction in deaf and hard-of-hearing patients could also be playing a role in the development of their SUDs.
Road to recovery
Communication can bridge the gap between a healthcare provider’s understanding of their patient’s genuine concerns and the issues that are actually plaguing the patient. This can help a provider to arrive at a decision of dispensing a prescription which might not pave the way for SUD or any other kind of substance abuse in future.
If you or someone you know is addicted to substances or has substance-related disorder and is looking for substance abuse treatment to overcome their issues, then Hillside Mission can help. An inpatient substance abuse disorder treatment clinic, we customize your journey to sobriety, ensuring that you achieve lasting recovery sooner rather than later. For more information about our rapid detox programs, call our 24/7 helpline 866-225-6101 or chat online with a representative.