Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen: Do They Increase the Risk of Hearing Loss?

senior elderly women hearing aids

Earlier today, I highlighted a link between increasing weight and increasing risk of hearing loss. Now, I would like to remind you of a potential link between popular pain-relieveing medicines and the risk of hearing loss among women. In the USA, analgesic medicines are the most frequently used drugs. While they can make pain diminish, could they also so dome damage to your ears?

According to a study in 2012 by researchers at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, USA), women who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen had an increased risk of hearing loss. In fact, the more often a woman took either of these medications, the higher her risk for hearing loss. The association between these medicines and hearing loss tended to be greater among women younger than 50 years old, especially for those who took ibuprofen six or seven days per week.

Researchers proactively examined the relationship between frequency of aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen use and the risk of hearing loss among women in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Data from 62,261 women ages 31 to 48 at baseline was studied. The women were followed from 1995 to 2009. 10,012 developed hearing loss.

Compared with women who used ibuprofen less than once per week,

  • those who used ibuprofen 2 to 3 days per week had a 13 percent increased risk for hearing loss
  • those who used ibuprofen 4 to 5 days per week had a 21 percent increased risk for hearing loss
  • those who used ibuprofen six or more days per week had a 24 percent increased risk for hearing loss

What about acetaminophen? Compared with worn who used it less than once per week,

  • those who used acetaminophen 2 to 3 days per week had an 11 percent increased risk of hearing loss
  • those who used acetaminophen 4 to 5 days per week had a 21 percent increased risk

Possible mechanisms might be that NSAIDs may reduce blood flow to the cochlea – the hearing organ – and impair its function, offers study author Sharon G. Curhan.

Unfortunately over 50 percent of American adults suffer from high-frequency hearing loss by the time they reach 60 years. old, and nearly two-thirds in their 60s have experienced hearing loss. Aspirin did not cause hearing loss. If you are thinking about chronically using medications such as these pain relievers, please check with your healthcare provider.

My Take: I believe there is an ongoing large study funded by the US National Institutes of Health in which over 150,000 women will be studied. This CHEARS: The Conservation of Hearing Study, will involve formal hearing tests among 3300 women at 15 testing sites in the USA. The goal is to identify factors that may influence early changes in hearing and to prevent further loss. Examples of specific factors include analgesics, alcohol intake, hormonal actors, and diet. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Want more information about this hearing study? Check out http://www.chearsstudy.org/

Reference: S.G. Curhan, et al. Analgesic Use and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Women. American Journal of Epidemiology (15 Sept 2012).

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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