For Women, Painkiller Use May Lead to Hearing Loss

For Women, Painkiller Use May Lead to Hearing Loss

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Research by Jack Felix, ACA, BC, HISLeave a Comment

Jack Felix, ACA, BC, HIS
Latest posts by Jack Felix, ACA, BC, HIS (see all)

Painkillers can be a useful way to quickly alleviate pain and discomfort. Though this type of immediate relief is urgent and necessary at times, it can also pose specific risks. Recent research highlights that painkiller use can increase the risk of hearing loss for women. Studies show that taking over the counter painkillers (like ibuprofen for example), as little as twice a week, can damage the auditory system -the sensory system for hearing. 

Link Between Painkillers and Hearing Loss

Studies show that painkiller use among women is correlated to the development of hearing loss. A major study that investigates this link was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers studied the long term impact of painkiller use on hearing health among women. This study included 55,850 women, ages  44 – 69, whose painkiller use was identified and categorized. Researchers found that regular use of painkillers – defined as two or more days per week – contributed to: 

  • 9% higher chance of hearing loss due to paracetamol (ingredient in tylenol) use over 6 years, compared with less than one year of regular use. 
  • 10% higher change of hearing loss with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) used over 6 years. And 8% increased risk for use 1 -4 years.

This data shows an increased risk of hearing loss as a result of painkiller use over a longer period of time. Researchers also found that nearly 1 in 20  (5.5%) cases of hearing loss could have been caused by painkiller use. This reveals that painkiller use can be a factor that increases the risk of hearing loss. 

How Painkillers Impact Hearing Health

You are likely wondering how painkillers can impact hearing. Well, the auditory system can be impacted in a few long-lasting ways. Painkillers alleviate pain by reducing inflammation but researchers suggest that it can also produce a few other effects that then impact hearing. Experts suggest that painkillers can damage the protective tissues in the ear canal as well as in the inner ear. It can also restrict blood flow in the inner ear or damage the sensory cells that are in the cochlea. 

These components of the auditory system are crucial to how sound waves are absorbed and processed. Soundwaves travel through the ear canal and reach the inner ear. Sensory cells in the inner ear then convert soundwaves into electrical signals which get sent to the brain which continues processing these signals. The brain assigns meaning to these signals which is how we are able to understand what we hear. Restricted blood supply, damage to protective tissues, damaged sensory cells etc. that may result from painkiller use can disrupt this process and produce chronic hearing loss. 

Ways to Protect Hearing Health

Being proactive about your hearing health is important. Practicing safety measures can help protect your hearing which is especially important if you use painkillers. A few tips you can integrate include: 

  • Consult your primary care doctor. If you use painkillers regularly, be sure to discuss this with your primary care physician. It is important to discuss underlying conditions, side-effects of medications, as well as treatment plans. This is especially critical if you experience chronic pain and use painkillers to alleviate symptoms. Research shows that long-term use is what can affect hearing health. 
  • Have hearing tested. Another great tip is incorporating hearing tests in annual health check-ins. Having your hearing tested yearly is a useful way to track and monitor your hearing health. This allows any changes you may experience to be identified and treated early. Early interventions can significantly support and protect the hearing that you do have. Hearing tests are painless and noninvasive!

These tips can help reduce the risk of hearing loss, protecting your hearing health and wellness. Being proactive about your hearing, especially if you use painkillers, can help you stay healthy.   

Prioritize Your Hearing Health with Hearing Care Centers

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. Our practice provides a range of services that focus on identifying and effectively treating your hearing healthcare needs. Treating hearing loss symptoms can transform everyday life in significant ways, allowing people to live more actively. Call us to learn more!

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