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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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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