Can Pain Relievers Cause Hearing Loss?

There are several obvious causes and risk factors for hearing loss such as age, trauma to the ear, loud noises, genetic condition or certain viruses and diseases.  However, there are other, harder to pinpoint causes as well, one of which is caused by the medications you take on a daily basis.  Certain antibiotics, diuretics and erectile dysfunction drugs have been known to cause hearing loss, but many individuals are unaware that some types of over the counter pain relievers may also cause hearing loss.

Harvard Medical School conducted two different studies which suggested that frequently taking common pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may in fact cause hearing loss. They showed that women who took these pain relievers at least twice a week were more likely to experience hearing loss and that risk increased with more frequent usage.

What is the reasoning behind this?  Doctors believe that pain relievers may cause damage to the cochlea; ibuprofen has been known to reduce blood flow to the cochlea which can cause cell damage and acetaminophen may reduce a protective antioxidant allowing the cochlea to be damaged more easily.

Short term usage of pain relievers is most likely to cause only temporary hearing issues such as ringing in the ears and vertigo.  These symptoms should diminish over time with no permanent damage.  Long term usage and especially prescription strength dosages on the other hand are much more likely to cause permanent hearing concerns.

The doctors aren’t saying that individuals should refrain from ever taking an over the counter pain reliever, however they are cautioning against using them indiscriminately.  As with any medication, the risks must be weighed against the benefits and it is always recommended to take the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time to reduce the risk of complications – and of course contact an audiologist if you have concerns about your hearing!






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