Ibuprofen and Hearing Loss

The use of analgesic medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen have been associated with hearing loss in men for quite some time.  In spite of that, this has not been well known or used to caution medication use in the general population.  New data now shows that it is an equal concern for women.

A look at the relationship from the Nurses’ Health Study II examined data from over 62,000 women between 1999 and 2009.  The graphic below shows the relative risk of developing hearing loss with different frequencies of analgesic use over a 15-year period.

Relative risk (RR) compares the risk of a population who use analgesics to the risk seen in a matched population of non-users.  Whatever the rate is in the non-users is called “relative risk of 1”.  If the percentage in the group who use analgesics is less than that group, the relative risk will be less than 1, or go below the line on the graph as shown with the “hypothetical”.  Anything above the line shows an increased risk percentage associated with using analgesics.

Risk of hearing loss is 13% greater with use of analgesics 2-3 times each week.  It roughly doubles to 24% greater with daily use.  One of the factors this study did not examine was if the effect becomes even greater with use beyond 15 years.  It likely continues to get greater over time.

In contrast to analgesic drugs, different herbs have analgesic effects reducing inflammation, and they unlikely cause any negative effects.  For example curcumin is anti-inflammatory, yet it also is used to heal the digestive tract lining which is in contrast to analgesic drugs that erode it.  Herbs work a little slower, but they have a much better overall benefit/risk balance.  Did you hear that?