When you have pain, you might reach for aspirin or ibuprofen without much thought, but new studies have shown risks you need to be aware of.
You’ll want to look at the risks to your hearing that many over-the-counter and prescription pain medication carry before you choose to use them. Younger men, amazingly, could have a higher risk factor.
What The Research Says About Hearing Loss And Pain Relievers
A comprehensive, 30-year collaborative study was performed involving researchers from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Brigham Young, and Vanderbilt. A bi-yearly survey was sent to 27,000 individuals between the age of 40 and 74 which included lifestyle and health questions.
Researchers weren’t certain what to expect because the survey was very extensive. After evaluating the data, they were surprised to find a solid connection between loss of hearing and over-the-counter pain relievers.
They also faced a more startling conclusion. Men who are under the age of 50 who regularly use acetaminophen were almost two times as likely to have hearing loss. The chance of developing hearing loss is 50/50 for individuals who take aspirin regularly. And those who used NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) had a 61% chance of getting lasting hearing loss.
Another unexpected thing that was revealed was that high doses used once in a while were not as harmful for your hearing as low doses taken regularly.
It’s important to note this correlation, but it doesn’t definitively demonstrate whether the pain relievers in fact caused the hearing loss. Causation can only be established with additional study. But we really should reconsider our use of these pain relievers after these persuasive results.
Hearing Loss And Pain Relievers – Present Theories
Researchers have numerous possible theories as to why pain relievers could cause hearing impairment.
When you experience pain, your nerves communicate this sensation to the brain. Blood flow to a particular nerve is blocked by over-the-counter pain relievers. This impedes nerve signals that normally communicate with the brain, so you feel less pain.
Scientists believe this process also decreases the flow of blood in the inner ear. Less blood flow means less nutrients and oxygen. When the flow is decreased for extended time periods, cells end up malnourished and die.
Acetaminophen, which showed the most appreciable correlation, could also decrease the generation of a particular protein that helps shield the inner ear from loud noises.
Is There Anything That Can be Done?
The most remarkable revelation was that men younger than 50 were more likely to be affected. This confirms that hearing loss doesn’t just affect the elderly. But as you age, if you take the proper steps you will have a better chance of maintaining your hearing.
While we aren’t suggesting you completely stop taking pain relievers, you should understand that there may be negative consequences. Take pain relievers as prescribed and reduce how often you take them if possible.
Seek out other pain relief options, including gentle exercise. You should also decrease the consumption of inflammation-causing foods and increase Omega-3 fat in your diet. These practices have been shown to naturally reduce inflammation and pain while strengthening blood flow.
And finally, schedule an appointment with us for a hearing examination. Don’t forget, hearing tests are for individuals of all ages. If you’re under 50, now is the time to begin talking to us about preventing further hearing loss.