Hearing management

Updated 04 December 2017

Painkillers linked to hearing loss in women

Analgesics are the most frequently used medications and are commonly used to treat a variety of medical conditions. But it may do some damage to your ears.

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Headache? Back pain? At the first sign of pain, you might reach for a pain-relieving medicine to sooth your bodily woes.

Analgesics are the most frequently used medications in the United States and are commonly used to treat a variety of medical conditions. But although popping a pill may make the pain go away, it may do some damage to your ears.

According to a study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), women who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week had an increased risk of hearing loss. The more often a woman took either of these medications, the higher her risk for hearing loss.

Also, the link between these medicines and hearing loss tended to be greater in women younger than 50 years old, especially for those who took ibuprofen six or more days per week. There was no association between aspirin use and hearing loss. The study will be published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Hearing loss among women

The researchers prospectively examined the relationship between frequency of aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen use and risk of hearing loss among women in the Nurses' Health Study II. Data from 62 261 women ages 31 to 48 years at baseline was studied. The women were followed for 14 years, from 1995 to 2009. Ten thousand and twelve women self-reported 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% increased risk for hearing loss, while women who used the medication 4 to 5 days per week had a 21% increased risk. For those who used ibuprofen six or more days per week, the increased risk was 24%.

Compared with women who used acetaminophen less than once per week, women who used acetaminophen 2 to 3 days per week had an 11% increased risk for hearing loss, while women taking the medicine 4 to 5 days per week had a 21% increased risk.

"Possible mechanisms might be that NSAIDs may reduce blood flow to the cochlea—the hearing organ—and impair its function," said first study author Sharon G. Curhan, MD, BWH Channing Division of Network Medicine. "Acetaminophen may deplete factors that protect the cochlea from damage."

Curhan notes that although analgesics are widely available without a prescription, they are still medicines that carry potential side effects. "If individuals find a need to take these types of medications regularly, they should consult with their health care professional to discuss the risks and benefits and to explore other possible alternatives," said Curhan.

Over 50% of American adults suffer from high-frequency hearing loss by the time they reach 60 years old. One-third of women in their 50s and nearly two-thirds in their 60s have experienced hearing loss.

According to the World Health Organisation, adult-onset hearing loss is the sixth most common disease burden in high-income countries.

(EurekAlert, September 2012)

Read more: 

Hearing loss ups risk of falling

MP3 users risk hearing damage

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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