For Women, Painkiller Use May Lead to Hearing Loss

With many different over-the-counter medications available, we can quickly cure our pains and ailments and move on with our days. From the occasional headache to the nagging common cold, self-medication has enabled us to get well as soon as possible. 

A study from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Vanderbilt University, and a few other US institutions reveal that there may be a potential link between painkiller usage and the risk for hearing loss.

There is no immediate cause for alarm here, as the results are not entirely conclusive. However, this study might encourage us to rethink our intake of over-the-counter painkiller medication. 

Is there a link between painkillers and hearing loss

In this study, conducted in 2012, 55,850 women were asked about their painkiller use over two years. Women in the study ranged in age from 44 to 69. Results from the study revealed that “regular paracetamol use over six years was linked to a 9% higher chance of hearing loss, compared with less than one year of regular use.” 

With non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), results showed that “use over six years was linked to a 10% higher chance of hearing loss,” while “regular NSAID use for one to four years was linked to a 7% increased risk” and “regular NSAID use for five to six years was linked to an 8% increased risk.” For this study, “regular use” is defined as two or more days per week. 

Again, there is no cause for alarm because the definitive link between painkiller use and hearing loss is relatively small. According to researchers from the study, “4% of the cases of hearing loss reported by women were the result of NSAID use, and 1.6% were the result of paracetamol use.” This is a small percentage, considering the other factors involved.

For this study, researchers considered other potential confounding factors to hearing loss, including age, ethnic origin, body mass index (BMI), alcohol consumption and smoking, intake of micronutrients in diet linked to hearing, physical activity, and medical conditions that include diabetes, hypertension, and tinnitus. 

Other factors considered by researchers included women who had experienced hearing problems before 1990 and women who had undergone treatment for cancer (certain cancer treatment drugs have been linked to a sensorineural hearing loss). 

This study concludes that there is no definitive link between occasional paracetamol or ibuprofen and hearing loss. However, over some time, regular use (2+ days a week) could contribute to hearing loss and other environmental factors. 

How Your Health Affects Your Hearing

Despite the loose link found by this study, it is essential to remember that your health and your hearing are inextricably linked. Consider the factors that play a role in the study: BMI, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, alcohol use, and intake of nutrients. 

Cardiovascular issues have been linked to hearing loss due to the relay of oxygen to your sensitive inner ear environment. High blood pressure has been linked to both tinnitus and hearing loss. Smoking increases your blood pressure, in addition to several other health risks – many of which we already know. 

In terms of diet, many nutrients have been found to improve your hearing. A regular diet full of leafy greens, omega-3s, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, D, magnesium, and potassium, will help to improve your hearing. 

Untreated hearing loss continues to be linked to several related medical conditions, such as the increased risk for dementia (due to the cognitive load placed on your brain when it struggles to hear), balance issues and personal safety, an increased rate of falls and accidents and struggles with depression, stress, and anxiety.

Experiencing Changes in Your Hearing?

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, the first step is to take a hearing test. Even if you’re not experiencing changes, it is essential to your overall health to take an annual hearing test. With annual monitoring of your hearing abilities, we can keep track of your hearing so that treatment takes place quickly if changes occur. To set up a hearing test, contact us today!