Woman taking pain killers and thinking about her hearing.

When you have pain, you might grab some ibuprofen or aspirin without much thought, but new research has shown risks you should be aware of.

Many popular pain relievers, including those bought over-the-counter, carry risks to your hearing that you’ll want to consider when taking them. Surprisingly, younger men may be at higher risk.

What The Research Says About Hearing Loss And Pain Killers

Prestigious universities, such as Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Brigham Young, carried out a thorough 30 year study. A bi-yearly questionnaire was sent to 27,000 participants between the age of 40 and 74 which included lifestyle and health questions.

Researchers weren’t certain what to expect because the questionnaire was very diverse. After looking at the data, they were surprised to find a solid link between loss of hearing and over-the-counter pain relievers.

They also faced a more shocking realization. Men who are under the age of 50 who routinely use acetaminophen were nearly twice as likely to have loss of hearing. The chance of getting hearing loss is 50/50 for people who use aspirin frequently. And those who used NSAIDs (naproxen, ibuprofen) had a 61% chance of developing permanent hearing loss.

It was also striking that taking low doses regularly appeared to be worse for their hearing than using higher doses from time to time.

We can’t be certain that the pain reliever actually caused this hearing loss even though we can see a definite connection. More research is needed to prove causation. But these findings are persuasive enough that we ought to rethink how we’re using pain relievers.

Pain Relievers And Hearing Loss – Current Theories

There are several theories as to why pain relievers might cause hearing loss which experts have come up with.

When you experience pain, your nerves convey this feeling to the brain. Blood flow to a specific nerve is obstructed by over-the-counter pain relievers. You then feel reduced pain as the regular pain signals are blocked.

Researchers suspect this process also reduces the flow of blood in the inner ear. Lowered blood flow means less oxygen and nutrients. When the flow is reduced for extended time periods, cells become malnourished and die.

Also, there’s a particular protein that guards the inner ear from loud noises and it seems like acetaminophen, in particular, might block this.

What You Can do?

The most significant revelation was that men under 50 were more likely to be impacted. This is a solemn reminder that hearing impairment can manifest at any age. The steps you take when you’re younger can help preserve your hearing as you age.

While it’s important to note that using these pain relievers can have some negative repercussions, that doesn’t mean you need to entirely stop using them. Use pain medication only when you absolutely need to and when dealing with prescription medication, only as prescribed.

If you can find alternative solutions you should consider them as a first possibility. It would also be a good idea to increase the Omega-3 fat in your diet and decrease foods that cause inflammation. These practices have been shown to naturally lessen pain and inflammation while strengthening blood flow.

Lastly, is an appointment to see us each year to get your hearing tested. Don’t forget, hearing examinations are for people of all ages. If you’re under 50, now is the time to start speaking with us about preventing additional hearing loss.

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