Hearing management

20 December 2016

Pain relievers linked to hearing loss in women

A new study says the long-term use of over-the-counter pain relievers may be associated with increased risk of hearing loss in some women.

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Women who used ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for six years or more were more likely to suffer hearing loss than those who used the pain relievers for a year or less, said researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

They found no significant association between long-term aspirin use and hearing loss.

Read: A hearing aid can restore your quality of life!

Health implications

"Although the magnitude of higher risk of hearing loss with analgesic use was modest, given how commonly these medications are used, even a small increase in risk could have important health implications," study senior author Dr Gary Curhan said in a hospital news release.

"Assuming causality, this would mean that approximately 16.2 percent of hearing loss occurring in these women could be due to ibuprofen or acetaminophen use," said Curhan, a physician in the division of network medicine.

The study doesn't establish a cause-and-effect relationship, however.

For the study, Curhan's team analysed data from more than 54,000 women, ages 48 to 73, in the Nurses' Health Study.

Longer use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen was associated with potentially higher risk of impaired hearing.

Read: How do we hear?

More research is needed

The researchers noted that most of the women in the study were older and white. They said larger studies that include other groups of people are needed to learn more about the possible link between pain relievers and hearing loss.

The research team previously found that higher use of acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) was associated with increased risk of hearing loss in men and younger women.

Read: Decibel damage

The impact on quality of life

"Hearing loss is extremely common in the United States and can have a profound impact on quality of life," Curhan said. "Finding modifiable risk factors could help us identify ways to lower risk before hearing loss begins and slow progression in those with hearing loss."

The study results were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

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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