For Women, Painkiller Use May Lead to Hearing Loss

April 15, 2021
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We’ve known that some drugs can lead to an increased risk of hearing loss for a long time. Some anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and drugs used to treat high blood pressure or cancer have been linked to hearing loss. Even aspirin, when taken in large doses, can lead to hearing loss. A new study has found that long-term use of readily available over-the-counter painkillers may lead to an increased risk of hearing loss for women.

Which painkillers could cause hearing loss?

The question we all want to be answered is: which drugs cause hearing loss? There’s no simple answer. No drug causes hearing loss, but taking too many certain medications can increase your chances of developing hearing loss. Women who take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) could potentially jeopardize their hearing. Taking these drugs twice per week is all it takes to see an increased risk of hearing loss.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that around 6% of hearing loss in women could be overusing ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Women who took acetaminophen regularly for a year had a higher risk of hearing loss. In contrast, women who took ibuprofen didn’t see an increased risk of hearing loss until they’d been taking it for six years or more. For all the women in the study, the more years they took painkillers, the higher their chances of impaired hearing.

How could painkillers cause hearing loss?

Drugs like common painkillers can damage hearing in several ways. Some reduce blood supply, deprive the tiny hair cells in the inner ear of oxygen, and remove the inner ear’s protection.

However, researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary who contributed to this study were quick to point out that these medications aren’t the only factors at play. Exposure to loud noises in the workplace or at home, busy city streets, and even headphone use contribute to damaging hearing.

Taking painkillers doesn’t mean you’ll get hearing loss, but added to all the other risk factors in your daily life, your chances of developing hearing loss increase.

Hearing loss is widespread in the United States, with around 48 million Americans struggling with a hearing impairment. It’s essential to know the risk factors and prevent hearing loss. Living with hearing loss harms the quality of life, strains family relationships, and even affects your ability to do your job. Since these drugs are found in every bathroom cupboard across America, being aware of the risks is essential.

How to prevent potential hearing loss from painkillers

Even though ibuprofen and acetaminophen are available over the counter, and no one stops you from taking them often, it’s important to take painkillers and other medications only when needed or as recommended by your doctor. Never exceed the recommended dose, or take medication for longer than necessary.

Many women and men use over-the-counter painkillers daily for general aches and pains or managing headaches and muscle pains. Occasional use of drugs to control pain won’t lead to any side effects or negatively impact your hearing. However, this research reminds us that using these drugs two or more days a week for extended periods could lead to serious health consequences and put your hearing at risk. If you regularly visit your doctor to discuss what’s causing the pain and explore other options for managing the symptoms, if you take painkillers regularly, visit your doctor.

Preventing hearing loss further

Hearing loss is a common problem as people age. You’re exposed to loud noises at work, at noisy leisure activities like music concerts, and at home in front of the TV or with your headphones in. Overuse of painkillers and the natural aging process also lead to hearing loss. To protect your hearing, avoid noisy situations if possible, or wear ear protection in noise. Turn down the TV volume, and keep the volume low on your personal headphones.

This study shows that it’s time to recognize the risk of painkillers and reduce your use of these drugs, never taking them as a long-term solution to managing pain.

If you have hearing loss, we’ve got you covered. Call us today to book a hearing test! We are here to help you get back to hearing all the sounds you’ve been missing.