March 01, 2010
Pain Killers Accelerate Hearing Loss With Age?

Regular pain killer use harms your hearing? Huh, regular rain thriller ewes arms your healing?

New York, NY, March 1, 2010 In a study published in the March 2010 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers determined that regular use of aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increases the risk of hearing loss in men, particularly in younger men, below age 60.

A third of people in their 40s already suffer some hearing loss. But that rock and roll cranked up on headphones sure was good. I want periodic ear stem cell therapies so that I can listen to lots of loud music.

Hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the US, afflicting over 36 million people. Not only is hearing loss highly prevalent among the elderly, but approximately one third of those aged 40-49 years already suffer from hearing loss. Even mild hearing loss can compromise the ability to understand speech in the presence of background noise or multiple speakers, leading to social isolation, depression, and poorer quality of life.

Of course a study like this doesn't prove direction of causation. But apparently toxicity of aspirin to ears is already well known.

Investigators from Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Vanderbilt University and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston looked at factors other than age and noise that might influence the risk of hearing lose. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are the 3 most commonly used drugs in the US. The ototoxic effects of aspirin are well known and the ototoxicity of NSAIDs has been suggested, but the relation between acetaminophen and hearing loss has not been examined previously. The relationship between these drugs and hearing loss is an important public health issue.

The differences in risks are substantial.

Study participants were drawn from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which tracked over 26,000 men every 2 years for 18 years. A questionnaire determined analgesic use, hearing loss and a variety of physiological, medical and demographic factors.

For aspirin, regular users under 50 and those aged 50-59 years were 33% more likely to have hearing loss than were nonregular users, but there was no association among men aged 60 years and older. For NSAIDs, regular users aged under 50 were 61% more likely, those aged 50-59 were 32% more likely, and those aged 60 and older were 16% more likely to develop hearing loss than nonregular users of NSAIDs.

Acetaminophen users seem to be at the most risk.

For acetaminophen, regular users aged under 50 were 99% more likely, regular users aged 50-59 were 38% more likely, and those aged 60 and older were 16% more likely to have hearing loss than nonregular users of acetaminophen.

Note that as added risk is measured here it appears to decline with age. But that's probably in part because a larger fraction of the population has hearing loss with age and so the percentage increase can't be as big. Also, these percentages do not measure severity of hearing loss which also seems likely to be higher with analgesic use.

We need the biotechnologies that will allow us to repair our broken parts. Imagine hearing and eyesight as acute and sensitive as you had when you were 12 but matched up with a mature brain that understands all that you see and hear much better.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 March 01 10:22 PM  Aging Studies

cathy said at March 2, 2010 5:22 AM:

Is there any clue to the mechanism for this? I read somewhere that hearing loss is not all in the ear (transmitting sound), there is also a loss of the brain's ability to distinguish signal from noise.

Fat Man said at March 2, 2010 10:43 AM:

Old age. Pain. Pills. Hearing loss. In an endless loop. But it doesn't matter. The only person I talk to is my wife, and I have already heard everything she has to say. The TV, I can just turn up the volume.

Flybrariman said at March 2, 2010 2:36 PM:

What about the low dosage aspirin regimen drs. recommend for heart health? Does dosage matter?

Roberto said at March 2, 2010 2:41 PM:

Rush Limbaugh said, "what?"

poolefredva said at March 2, 2010 3:23 PM:

I believe this is the case. I had back pain for several years, treated it with otc painkillers because I needed to be alert and didn't want to take prescription pain meds. By the time the doctors figured out what my problem was I had moderate hearing loss and tinnitus. Be careful out there.

Micha Elyi said at March 2, 2010 3:28 PM:

In a study of men? The expendable sex? Oh then it's not news, no need to do anything. This will be front page news if anything happens to women though. Get back to us then.-Consumer Focused (Mainstream) Media

Example: By the time the average female has a first heart attack, the average man had his and died ten years before. Notice, however, upon whom is lavished the most attention.

JohnC said at March 2, 2010 3:35 PM:

This adverse side effect is real and is the reason why Rush Limbaugh wears cochlear implants today due to his abuse of oxycontin some years ago.

bud said at March 2, 2010 3:56 PM:

That there is some hearing effect is undoubted for anyone with tinnitus. Aspirin and every NSAID I've used (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Diclofenac) increases the "level" of tinnitus for me.

I don't use them more than occasionally, so my hearing problems have more to do with playing in bands, shooting, riding a motorcycle and plain old age, but this is good info for many athletic types. Most of the serious runners I've known use a LOT of "Vitamin I".

kwo said at March 2, 2010 4:48 PM:

In case anyone else is wondering, the paper's abstract defines "regular use" as 2+ times/week.

leishman said at March 2, 2010 5:33 PM:

As aptly stated by Mr. Parker, association does not equal causation. Most long-term users of analgesics do so either to treat arthritis or headaches. It is just as possible that the disease processes and/or genetics involved affect both joint detioration (or headache causes) and auditory acuity.

BTW, John C., Oxycontin has NO aspirin, acetaminophen, or NSAIDs in it; nice try with the cheap shot at Rush, but no (Rush) cigar, amigo.

Locomotive Breath said at March 2, 2010 5:44 PM:

This just in. Married men take far more pain killers than unmarried men.

George True said at March 2, 2010 6:01 PM:

Actually, the most commonly prescribed form of oxycodone is oxycontin, the brand name of which is Percoset. Oxycontin/Percoset is a combination of Acetaminaphin and Oxycodone. The most commonly prescribed strength is either 325 mg or 500 mg of Acetaminophen combined with 5 mg of oxycodone. So yes, Oxycontin contains a substantial amount of Acetaminophen.

Fat Man said at March 2, 2010 6:20 PM:

Micha Elyi: Q. Why do husbands die before their wives?

A. Because they want to.

Tom said at March 2, 2010 7:45 PM:

George True:

Actually, the most commonly prescribed form of oxycodone is oxycontin, the brand name of which is Percoset.

Nice try. Oxycontin is the brand name for a single-ingredient drug, pure oxycodone. It contains no acetaminophen (not Acetaminaphin.) Percocet (not Percoset) is not a brand name for Oxycontin. Percocet is a brand name for a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen.

Diana Fiorucci said at March 3, 2012 1:24 PM:

I'm a 45 yr old white female. I had a neck injury many years ago.I started taking tylenol & motrin regularly. Around the age of 28 I sarted noticing ringing in my ears and eventually my hair started falling out in clumps. I've now lost more than 70% of my hearing in my right ear and 30% in my left. I went to 5 ENT docs and specialists. None of them could help. The ringing is so loud and it never goes away. It's so loud that it even makes it hard to fall a sleep. It sound like a million high pitched instruments screaming as loudly as they can in your head, it's non stop and never ever goes away. I would do anything to make it go away. Over the years I've seen more than 25 family physicians and told them this was happening. I even told them I think the motrin and tylenol were to blame. For many years they told me sorry theres nothing we can do and would send me on my way. I today am taking a prescription medication. After numerous docs and my hearing getting worse by the day and hair still falling out in huge clumps every day I eventually came across a physician that was willing to prescribe something other than otc meds. My hair stopped falling out and my hearing is still horrible but I think stable. The doctors were so afraid to prescribe me narcotics because of my age that they continued to let me eat bottles upon bottles of tylenol and motrin over the years for my pain. I now have to wonder if liver damage is why my hair was falling out. I was darn near bald at one point. When I first started taking the otcs I was young and had a full head of hair down to the middle of my back and it was falling out so badly that i had to pick clumps of it off my body in the shower before drying with my towel. So yes, be careful taking otcs. They'll let you die before taking a financial loss. And I'm not just talking about the manufacturers.

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