Painkillers Linked to Hearing Loss in Men

Mar 03, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A new study published in the American Journal of Medicine suggests
there may be a link between regular use of popular over-the-counter painkillers,
such as acetaminophen and aspirin, and an increased risk of hearing loss in
men under the age of 60.

According to the study conducted by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham
and Women’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Infirmary, men between 50 and 59 who took aspirin on a regular basis were 33
percent more likely to suffer hearing loss than those who rarely took the painkiller.
Doctors have known for some time that taking high
doses of aspirin could lead to temporary tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the
ears) in some people.

Men under the age of 50 who regularly took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) were 61 percent more likely to have a loss of hearing. Those
taking the drugs between 50 and 59 were 32 percent more likely to have their
hearing affected. Those over 60 were 16 percent more likely to be affected.

Discussion Questions: Will the study published in
the American Journal of Medicine cause a drop in sales of aspirin and other
over-the-counter painkillers? What should retailers be telling customers
with questions on this topic?

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8 Comments on "Painkillers Linked to Hearing Loss in Men"

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Steve Montgomery
11 years 2 months ago

There are several issues that will determine the impact of this study has on aspirin and other pain medicine usage amongst men. First, and foremost, is the amount of awareness that is created. Many, many medical studies are released but for whatever reason don’t get much publicity and therefore don’t impact consumer behavior.

Second, while 33% of the men were more likely to suffer a hearing loss, the threat of a hearing lost will have to be weighed against the level of pain the person is incurring. What the news article didn’t state is the level of usage that was involved. Was it two aspirin a day or a dozen? I expect that a few a day is not the issue, but the impact will also be determined by this metric.

David Livingston
11 years 2 months ago

Retailers should just avoid addressing these negative claims and instead promote the health benefits. Applying negative talk to a product will never increase sales. The manufacturers need to continue coming out with new research of their own that puts their product in a more positive light.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
11 years 2 months ago

Most big name pharmacies do a decent job of educating their customers on the pitfalls of medications. Hearing loss in men for aspirin can be added to the list of warning customers need. Didn’t they just tell us to start taking it to keep our tickers in line?

Ryan Mathews
11 years 2 months ago

What did you ask?

Well, it had to happen. For every fact there, is a counter fact. For every data point, an opposing piece of data.

What is the poor customer to believe? Take aspirin every day and help your heart at the expense of your ears or have perfect hearing as they wheel you in for your bypass?

The ability to establish statistical linkages between drugs/food and medical conditions makes it all but impossible for customers to know what is true or perhaps more importantly, which truth is more important.

One assumes that if an otherwise healthy male under 60 developed ringing in the ears and/or hearing loss they would seek out medical advice.

If he isn’t smart enough to do that, he probably wouldn’t “listen” to the newest medical study either.

Caveat emptor! Good advice then. Good advice now.

Rick Moss
11 years 2 months ago

I can’t help wonder if the researchers considered other possible causal relationships. Why would men take a lot of pain medication? Do they drink a lot? Do they listen to loud music? Do they grind their teeth at night? Do they get headaches from sedentary activity vs. a healthy amount of exercise?

I’ll wait for the next study-of-the-week.

Anne Bieler
Anne Bieler
11 years 2 months ago

With many voices in the medical community advising men to take low doses of aspirin on a daily basis for heart health, the news of this study may now be included in the usual warnings about taking this medication. But if any advice is heeded about pain medication and hearing loss, as earlier writers have said, it should be provided by your health care provider. Most retail pharmacies would hopefully direct a client to see a doctor to discuss hearing loss concerns.

Jonathan Marek
11 years 2 months ago

I’m with Rick on this one. It feels like the study-of-the-week, based on often-spurious correlations. That list is growing long, from HRT to Vitamin D. Studying people who self-select into taking pain killers is an impossible task. I can’t imagine any way you could correct for the massive bias that the self-selection introduces.

John Crossman
John Crossman
11 years 1 month ago

Every human body is different. It is up to each person to do research and learn the best health procedures and products for themselves.


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