Hearing Loss And Over-The-Counter Pain Medications

Woman taking pain killers and thinking about her hearing.

When you have pain, you might reach for ibuprofen or aspirin without thinking much about it, but new studies have revealed risks you should recognize.

You’ll want to think about the risks to your hearing that many over-the-counter and prescription pain medication carry before you choose to use them. Younger men, surprisingly, could have a higher risk factor.

Pain Killers And Hearing Loss – What The Studies Say

A comprehensive, 30-year collective study was performed involving researchers from prestigious universities like Harvard, Brigham Young, and Vanderbilt. The researchers asked 27,000 people ages 40 to 74, to complete a biennial survey that included numerous lifestyle and health questions.

Researchers weren’t sure what to expect because the survey was very extensive. But the data demonstrated that over-the-counter pain relievers and hearing loss had a solid connection.

The data also revealed something even more alarming. Men 50 or younger were nearly two times as likely to have hearing loss if they frequently used acetaminophen. People who frequently used aspirin had a 50% chance of experiencing hearing loss. And those who used NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) had a 61% chance of getting irreversible hearing loss.

Another unexpected thing that was revealed was that high doses taken occasionally were not as bad for your hearing as low doses taken frequently.

It’s important to note this correlation, but it doesn’t definitively reveal whether the pain relievers actually were the cause of the hearing loss. Causation can only be established with further study. But we really need to rethink our use of these pain relievers after these persuasive results.

Present Theories About The Connection Between Pain Relievers And Hearing Loss

Researchers have several conceivable theories as to why pain relievers may cause hearing impairment.

Your nerves communicate the experience of pain to your brain. Over-the-counter pain relievers work by decreasing the flow of blood to particular nerves. This disrupts nerve signals that usually communicate with the brain, so you feel less pain.

Scientists suspect this process also decreases the flow of blood in the inner ear. This blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen. Cells will die from undernourishment if this blood flow is decreased for prolonged periods.

Acetaminophen, which showed the most appreciable correlation, could also reduce the generation of a specific protein that helps shield the inner ear from loud noises.

What You Can do?

Perhaps the most significant point to consider is that men under 50 were more likely to suffer hearing impairment from pain relievers. This is a solemn reminder that hearing loss can manifest at any age. But as you get older, if you take the right steps you will have a better chance of protecting your hearing.

While it’s significant to note that taking these pain relievers can have some unfavorable consequences, that doesn’t mean you need to completely stop using them. Take pain relievers as prescribed and reduce how often you take them if possible.

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

And finally, schedule an appointment with us for a hearing test. Don’t forget, hearing exams are for people of all ages. The best time to start speaking with us about preventing further 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.