March 29, 2019
2 min read

Substance use disorders more prevalent in adults under 50 with hearing loss

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Hearing loss among individuals aged younger than 50 years seemed to increase the risk for substance use disorders, particularly opioid use disorder, according to study findings.

“A recent national survey of U.S. adults indicates that people with hearing loss were more likely to report regular or heavy use of alcohol and cannabis,” Michael M. McKee MD, MPH, from University of Michigan Medical School, and colleagues wrote in American Journal of Prevention Medicine. “However, the analysis did not look at prescription drug use and was underpowered for overall drug use among individuals with hearing loss.”

Using 2015 to 2016 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers examined the lifetime prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) among individuals with vs. without hearing loss (n = 86,186) independent of sociodemographic factors.

Participants were stratified into three groups — 18 to 34 years (n = 46,048), 35 to 49 years (n = 22,530) and 50 years and older (n = 17,608) — to evaluate SUD prevalence in each age category. SUDs included were alcohol use disorder, cannabis use disorder, prescription opioid use disorder, or any SUD (non-nicotine).

The prevalence of hearing loss was 5.2%. McKee and colleagues found that adults younger than 50 years with hearing loss were more likely to have a SUD after adjusting for sociodemographic factors and mental health.

Adults with hearing loss aged 18 to 34 years were more likely to have any SUD (adjusted OR = 1.26; 95% CI, 1.03-1.54) and prescription opioid use disorder (aOR = 2.57; 95% CI, 1.61-4.11). In the 35 to 49 age group, those with hearing loss were also more likely to have any SUD (aOR = 1.83; 95% CI, 1.36-2.45), alcohol use disorder (aOR = 1.89; 95% CI, 1.43-2.5) and opioid use disorder (aOR = 1.98; 95% CI, 1.02-3.86). However, the risk for cannabis use disorder was not associated with hearing loss in any age group.

“Poor clinician–patient communication results in numerous adverse outcomes, including reduced patient treatment adherence and less awareness of healthy behaviors and likely affects the understanding of certain management and treatment approaches,” the researchers wrote. “Clinicians treating older adults may be more prepared to assess and integrate hearing loss into their communications, explaining the lack of SUDs in older individuals. This study's findings underscore the importance of understanding how someone may progress from initial use to development of a SUD.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.