Over-The-Counter Pain Medications And Hearing Loss

Woman taking pain killers and thinking about her hearing.

When you’re in pain, you may grab some ibuprofen or aspirin without thinking much about it, but new research has revealed risks you need to be aware of.

You’ll want to consider the risks to your hearing that many over-the-counter and prescription pain medication carry before you choose to use them. Surprisingly, younger men may be at higher risk.

Pain Killers And Hearing Loss – What The Research Says

Prestigious universities, like Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Brigham Young, carried out a thorough 30 year study. A bi-yearly survey was sent to 27,000 individuals between the age of 40 and 74 which included health and lifestyle questions.

Because the survey was so diverse, researchers were unsure of what they would find. But the data demonstrated that over-the-counter pain relievers and loss of hearing had a strong connection.

They also faced a more surprising realization. Men 50 or younger were approximately twice as likely to have hearing loss if they routinely used acetaminophen. The chance of getting hearing loss is 50/50 for people who take aspirin regularly. 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 frequently seemed to be more detrimental to their hearing than taking higher doses occasionally.

It’s relevant to note this correlation, but it doesn’t definitively show whether the pain relievers in fact caused the hearing loss. More studies are needed to prove causation. But these results are compelling enough that we should reconsider how we’re using pain relievers.

Present Theories About The Connection Between Hearing Loss And Pain Relievers

Scientists have numerous conceivable theories as to why pain relievers may cause hearing impairment.

When you experience pain, your nerves communicate this feeling to the brain. The flow of blood to a specific nerve is blocked by over-the-counter pain relievers. You then feel reduced pain as the normal pain signals are blocked.

Scientists suspect this process also reduces the flow of blood in the inner ear. Lowered blood flow means less oxygen and nutrients. Cells will die from malnourishment if this blood flow is reduced for extended periods.

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

Is There Anything That Can be Done?

The most remarkable revelation was that men younger than 50 were the most likely to be affected. This is an earnest reminder that hearing loss can happen at any age. The steps you take when you’re younger can help preserve your hearing as you age.

While it’s important to note that taking these pain relievers can have some negative consequences, that doesn’t mean you have to entirely stop using them. Use pain medication only when you really need to and when dealing with prescription medication, only as prescribed.

Look for other pain relief solutions, including light exercise. It would also be a good idea to boost the Omega-3 fat in your diet and minimize foods that cause inflammation. Decreased pain and better blood flow have been demonstrated to come from these practices.

And finally, make an appointment with us for a hearing exam. Remember, you’re never too young to get your hearing checked. The best time to start speaking with us about preventing additional hearing loss is when you under 50.

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