Hearing Loss And Over-The-Counter Pain Medications

Woman taking pain killers and thinking about her hearing.

When you experience pain, you might reach for ibuprofen or aspirin without much thought, but new research has shown risks you should recognize.

Many prevalent pain relievers, including store-bought brands, pose risks to your hearing that you’ll want to weigh when considering using them. Younger men, surprisingly, could have a higher risk factor.

What Studies Say About Hearing Loss And Pain Killers

Prestigious universities, such as Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Brigham Young, performed a comprehensive 30 year study. A bi-yearly questionnaire was sent to 27,000 participants between the age of 40 and 74 which included health and lifestyle questions.

Researchers were not certain what to expect because the survey was very broad. But the data revealed that over-the-counter pain relievers and hearing loss had a strong link.

They also faced a more shocking realization. Men who are 50 or under who routinely use acetaminophen were nearly two times as likely to have loss of hearing. The chance of getting hearing loss is 50/50 for people who use aspirin frequently. And there is a 61% chance that hearing loss will develop in those who use NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen).

It was also striking that using low doses regularly seemed to be more detrimental to their hearing than taking higher doses from time to time.

It’s significant to mention this connection, but it doesn’t definitively demonstrate whether the pain relievers actually caused the hearing loss. Causation can only be proven with more study. But we really should reconsider our use of these pain relievers after these compelling results.

Current Theories About The Connection Between Pain Relievers And Hearing Loss

Experts have several conceivable theories as to why pain relievers could cause hearing damage.

When you experience pain, your nerves communicate this sensation to the brain. Blood flow to a specific nerve is obstructed by over-the-counter pain relievers. You then feel reduced pain as the normal pain signals are impeded.

Scientists believe this process also decreases blood flow in the inner ear. This blood provides vital oxygen and nutrients. When the flow is reduced for prolonged time periods, cells end up malnourished and die.

Also, there’s a specific protein that guards the inner ear from loud noises and it seems like acetaminophen, in particular, may block this.

What You Can do?

The most significant revelation was that men younger than 50 were more likely to be impacted. This is a solemn reminder that hearing impairment can occur at any age. But as you get older, if you take the appropriate steps you will have a better chance of protecting your hearing.

While we aren’t advising you completely stop taking pain relievers, you should understand that there may be unfavorable effects. Take pain relievers as prescribed and decrease how often you take them if possible.

If you can discover alternative solutions you should consider them as a first possibility. It would also be a practical idea to increase the Omega-3 fat in your diet and reduce foods that cause inflammation. Reduced pain and better blood flow have been shown to come from these practices.

Lastly, is an appointment to see us each year to get your hearing tested. Don’t forget, you’re never too young to have your hearing tested. The best time to begin talking to us about preventing additional hearing loss is when you under 50.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.