Hearing management

Updated 06 December 2017

Viagra may double hearing loss risk

A new study suggests men who take Viagra or similar drugs for erectile dysfunction may double their chances of hearing impairment.

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Is an erection worth becoming hard of hearing?

A new US study suggests men who take Pfizer's Viagra (sildenafil) or similar drugs for erectile dysfunction may double their chances of hearing impairment, bolstering a Food and Drug Administration warning from 2007 about this side effect.

High doses of Viagra have been shown to damage hearing in mice, but until now only a few anecdotal cases had been described in humans.

The study, based on a national sample of American men over 40, found that slightly more than one in six of those who did not take Viagra-like drugs - for instance, Eli Lilly's Cialis - were deaf or hard of hearing.

1 in 3 suffer hearing loss

Among those who took the drugs, however, almost one in three had hearing loss, Gerald McGwin, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, told Reuters Health.

Even after accounting for other factors linked to hearing loss, hard-of-hearing men still had twice the odds of taking Viagra, said McGwin, whose findings appear in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

However, he said, more research is still needed to confirm the findings.

Black box warning

Drug makers already include a "black box" warning about potential hearing loss on these products. But the new results expand on that concern, said Dr James E. Saunders, an ear doctor with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Centre in Lebanon, New Hampshire, US.

"Before the current paper the focus has always been on sudden hearing loss," Saunders, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health. "This study suggests that maybe there are small incremental changes that occur over time."

While he noted that the study relied on self-reporting of hearing loss, which has been criticized as inaccurate, he said at this point he would advise patients with hearing loss not to take the drugs.

But for men with normal hearing and erectile dysfunction, comparing a potential side effect to a real problem might tip the scale, he added.

"The few times that I've had that conversation with patients it's kind of a difficult decision," he said. - (Frederik Joelving/Reuters Health, May 2010)

SOURCE: Archives of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery, 2010. http://archotol.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/136/5/488

 

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Hearing Expert

Rene Hornby has been the owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. AuD degree obtained in 2013 at AT Still University Health Science Depart-ment, Arizona. Masters in Communication Pathology at the University of Pretoria, 2003. Remedial Teaching Diploma at Rand University, 1996. Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria, 1993. Owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. Educating the community regarding early identification of hearing problems and screening of new-borns. Providing assistance and services at retirement homes. Part-time lecturer at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. External examiner at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. Presenter at conferences and seminars.

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