Painkillers’ Frequent Use Can Cause Hearing Loss, Study Suggests

Losing the ability to hear properly is common as you age. When one gets older, they are likely to experience degeneration within the inner ear and along the nerve pathways that are connected to the brain. However, aging is not the only factor that causes hearing loss, as excessive use of certain drugs like painkillers can also impact hearing.

Nowadays, it is common for most people to take a painkiller during usual headaches and stomach aches. Although painkillers are effective in giving instant relief, they can be quite harmful for your hearing if consumed excessively.

According to doctors, many drugs including certain painkillers are toxic to our inner ear or auditory nerves. This hampers our ability to hear over time. Drug-induced hearing loss depends on the dose and duration of exposure to that drug.

A Harvard study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that pain relievers can be damaging to the cochlea which is a snail-shaped hearing mechanism in our inner ear. Researchers claim that drugs like ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the cochlea which in turn results in cellular damage or death of cells.

On the other hand, Dr Sharon Curhan, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School claims that consuming acetaminophen can lead to depletion of antioxidant glutathione, which is responsible for protecting the cochlea from damage.

In the study, it was found that women who took pain relievers at least twice per week were more likely to develop hearing issues. With more frequent usage, this risk could even increase up to 24%. Meanwhile, the findings were similar in men although aspirin was found to be contributing more significantly to the risk of hearing loss.

Although popping a pain killer is the most convenient way to get rid of pain, doctors advise that patients should prescribe them before taking them frequently. Relying on painkillers for headaches can also cause medication-induced headaches. In this condition, the patient regularly takes painkillers to get relief but ends up experiencing daily headaches as the medication becomes less effective.

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