Did you know that painkiller use can lead to hearing loss for women? Studies show that using over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen as little as twice a week can damage hearing health. Though these medications provide immediate relief, it is important to be aware of the risks they can have on your health.
Link Between Painkillers and Hearing Loss
Research shows that there is a connection between painkiller use and increased risk of hearing loss. A significant study that examines this link was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers assessed the impact of longer term painkiller use on the hearing health of 55,850 women. Participants ranged in age, from 44 to 69, and had their intake of painkillers 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) intake over a 6 year period, 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.
These findings highlight that painkiller use contributed to an increased risk of hearing loss. Another crucial finding in this study is nearly 1 in 20 (5.5%) cases of hearing loss could have been caused by painkiller use. Researchers conducted that painkiller use cna be a risk factor for hearing loss.
How Painkillers Impact Hearing Health
Painkillers can impact hearing health in a few ways that contribute to hearing loss. A key way that painkillers alleviate pain is by targeting and minimizing inflammation. But experts suggest that in addition to reducing inflammation, painkillers can have adverse effects on the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing. Painkillers can damage the protective tissues that line the ear canal and inner ear. It is also suggested that blood flow can be restricted in the inner ear which can irreparably damage the sensory cells in the cochlea.
Protective tissue, sensory cells, and blood flow are all essential to the process of absorbing and understanding sound. Sound Waves are absorbed by the outer ear and they travel through the ear canal and reach the inner ear. Sensory cells in the cochlea – there are thousands – help convert these soundwaves into electrical signals which get carried to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals and assign meaning to them which allows us to understand what we hear. Restricted blood flow or damage to the sensory cells and protective tissue in the inner ear can prevent soundwaves from being processed effectively. The impact of painkiller use can then result in the brain receiving less auditory information, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
There are useful strategies that you can practice to help protect your hearing health. This is especially important if you are a woman who uses painkillers. Two tips to implement are:
- Consult your primary care doctor. If you are using painkillers consistently, it is important to discuss potential side effects as well as alternatives with your doctor. If you experience chronic pain or other underlying medical conditions that you use painkillers to address, be sure to explore other options to manage symptoms without compromising your hearing health.
- Have hearing tested. It is also important to stay on top of your hearing health. A great way you can do this is by having your hearing assessed yearly. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures your hearing capacities in both ears. This establishes the full picture of your hearing health and allows you to identify any symptoms that develop over time.
Practicing these strategies are simple ways you can prioritize and protect your hearing health and wellness.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health with Los Gatos Audiology
We encourage you to integrate a yearly hearing test in annual health check-ins. You can commit to your hearing health today by calling us to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. We look forward to discussing the range of resources, services, and technologies that are available to support your hearing health.