Research Brief| Volume 56, ISSUE 4, P586-590, April 2019

The Relationship Between Hearing Loss and Substance Use Disorders Among Adults in the U.S.

Published:February 14, 2019DOI:


      Hearing loss is common and associated with poorer health and impeded communication. Little is known about the association between hearing loss and substance use disorders in the general population. The objective of this study was to assess substance use disorder prevalence among individuals with hearing loss, versus those without hearing loss, in a nationally representative sample of adults.


      Two years (2015 and 2016) of National Survey on Drug Use and Health (unweighted N=86,186) were combined to compare substance use disorders among adults with and without self-reported hearing loss. Statistical analysis included descriptive frequencies, chi-square tests, and multiple logistic regressions. Analyses were performed in 2018.


      Hearing loss prevalence across all age groups was 5.2%. Among younger age groups, after adjusting for sociodemographics, hearing loss was independently associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing a substance use disorder (ages 18–34 years, AOR=1.34, 95% CI=1.10, 1.64 vs 35–49 years, AOR=1.87, 95% CI=1.39, 2.53). Hearing loss was also associated with a greater likelihood of a prescription opioid use disorder (AOR=2.85, 95% CI=1.86, 4.39) in the group aged 18–34 years and, for the group aged 35–49 years, hearing loss increased the likelihood of both an alcohol use disorder (AOR=1.87, 95% CI=1.39, 2.53) and a prescription opioid use disorder (AOR=1.99, 95% CI=1.01, 3.91).


      Hearing loss is independently associated with substance use disorders among those aged 49 years and younger; these associations are particularly pronounced for prescription opioid use disorders in the group aged 18–34 years. Given the concern of inappropriate use of prescription opioids, this information may have implications for healthcare providers’ pain management for patients with hearing loss.
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