The United States is experiencing an unprecedented opioid epidemic which is killing an estimated 130 people a day. The increased prescribing of opioid medications has led to the misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids, and the problem is now a public health emergency. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan are finding opioid abuse to be twice as high among the deaf and hearing impaired when compared to those who do not have a hearing loss.
The consequences of this epidemic include the misuse of opioids and overdoses that result from the abuse. Often called narcotics, this group of drugs contains strong pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, tramadol, and heroin. Severe pain, injury, or surgery are typical indicators for opioid drug therapy.
A new study is addressing opioid addiction among those under 50 who are deaf or have a hearing loss. The research finds that prescription opioid abuse is twice as high among those with hearing loss as opposed to those who do not have a hearing loss. This research study uses data from 86, 186 adults that took part in a national survey.
The researchers utilized two years’ worth of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to compare substance abuse disorders among adults with normal hearing and those who have a hearing loss. The statistical analysis includes descriptive frequencies, chi-square tests, and multiple logistic regressions.
The results are alarming. Adults under 35 years of age with a hearing loss are 2.5 times more likely to have the prescription opioid disorder. Those participants between 35 and 49 years of age are twice as likely to have an addiction to both opioids and alcohol. Results for study members over the age of 50 did not differ from the other age groups. Adjusting for differences in social, economic, and mental health factors made no impact on the study.
The research findings indicate a need for caution when providers treat the deaf and hard of hearing for pain and mental health issues. The team believes that opioid addiction disorder may be the result of the high rate of people receiving prescription opioids due to the communication problems that accompany the hearing loss. It is easier for providers to prescribe an opioid than engage in communication with a non-hearing patient.
What It All Means
Hearing loss has an association with substance use disorders among people 49 years of age and younger. The problem mostly involves those persons in the 18-34 age group. This information should affect how healthcare providers prescribe opioids for patients with hearing loss. If you have a hearing loss, schedule a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional today. If you suspect an opioid addiction, do not hesitate to seek professional help for the problem. The Opioid Treatment Directory lists programs available in each state for people addicted to pain-relieving drugs. If you have a hearing loss and an opioid addiction, please don’t despair because there is help available for you.