Edison Stanford Intelligent Hearing - Salt Lake City, Draper, and Provo, UT

Woman taking pain killers and thinking about her hearing.

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

Many common pain relievers, including those bought over-the-counter, carry risks to your hearing that you’ll want to consider when using them. Younger men, amazingly, could carry a higher risk factor.

What Studies Say About Hearing Loss And Pain Killers

A comprehensive, 30-year cooperative study was conducted involving researchers from esteemed universities including Harvard, Brigham Young, and Vanderbilt. 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 sure what to expect because the questionnaire was very broad. After reviewing the data, they were surprised to find a strong link between loss of hearing and over-the-counter pain relievers.

The data also revealed something even more alarming. Men who are under the age of 50 who regularly use acetaminophen were nearly twice as likely to have loss of hearing. The chance of initiating hearing loss is 50/50 for individuals who take aspirin regularly. And those who used NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) had a 61% chance of developing irreversible hearing loss.

Another unexpected thing that was discovered was that high doses used occasionally were not as harmful for your hearing as low doses taken regularly.

It’s significant to note this correlation, but it doesn’t definitively reveal whether the pain relievers in fact were the cause of the hearing loss. More studies are needed to prove causation. But we really need to rethink our use of these pain relievers after these compelling results.

Hearing Loss And Pain Relievers – Current Theories

Experts have several possible theories as to why pain relievers might cause hearing impairment.

When you have pain, your nerves convey this sensation to the brain. Over-the-counter pain relievers work by decreasing blood flow to particular nerves. This impedes nerve signals that normally communicate with the brain, so you feel a reduced pain level.

There may also be a reduction of blood flow to the inner ear according to scientists. Lowered blood flow means less nutrients and oxygen. When the flow is reduced for prolonged periods of time, cells become malnourished and die.

Also, there’s a particular protein that protects the inner ear from loud noises and it seems as if acetaminophen, in particular, could block this.

What You Can do?

Perhaps the biggest point to consider is that men under 50 were more likely to suffer hearing loss from pain relievers. This verifies that hearing loss doesn’t just impact the elderly. But as you get older, if you take the proper steps you will have a better chance of protecting your hearing.

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

Seek out other pain relief solutions, including light exercise. You should also minimize the consumption of inflammation-producing foods and increase Omega-3 fat in your diet. Decreased pain and enhanced blood flow have been demonstrated to come from these practices.

Lastly, is an appointment to see us every year to get your hearing checked. Remember, you’re never too young to get your hearing tested. If you’re under 50, now is the time to begin speaking with us about avoiding further hearing loss.

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