Hearing Loss in Women Linked to Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen Usage; Aspirin, Advil and Tylenol Linked to Hearing Loss in Men

By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D. –

Hearing Loss in WomenThe Women’s Study:

Arecent study of women (September 2012) by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts has shown that the more frequently women take ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, Motrin, Midol) or acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) the higher their risk of hearing loss. The results showed that the link was stronger for women less than 50 years old and especially strong for those who took these common, over-the-counter medications for six or more days a week. There was no link between hearing loss and aspirin in this study.

According to study researcher Dr. Sharon G. Curhan, M.D. of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Channing Division of Network Medicine, “possible mechanisms might be that NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] may reduce blood flow to the cochlea — the hearing organ — and impair its function. Acetaminophen may deplete factors that protect the cochlea from damage.”

The 14-year-long study of 62,261 women between the ages of 31 and 48 concluded with 10,012 reporting some kind of hearing loss. Researchers found that taking acetaminophen 2-3 days a week raised the risk of hearing loss by 11%, while taking it four or five days a week raised the risk by 21%. Results showed taking ibuprofen 2-3 days a week raised the hearing loss by by 13%, taking in 4-5 days a week raised the risk by 21% and taking it 6 or more times per week raised it by 24%. No increased risk was found with aspirin.

However, some experts disagreed with the strength of the findings.

“Hearing tests were not performed in this study,” said Dr. Ronna Hertzano, an otolaryngologist from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. Instead, the researchers relied on study participants’ answers to one question on a questionnaire, which is a less accurate measure of hearing loss and limited the validity of the study, she said.

“Hearing loss over the age of 50 is common,” Hertzano said. “Some people may be bothered by it, while some aren’t even aware they have it.”

The Men’s Study:

In an earlier study reported in the March 2010 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, it was shown that men who take aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen regularly are at increased risk of hearing loss, especially in men under the age of 60.

Researchers from Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University, and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, evaluated factors other than age and noise that may influence the risk of hearing loss. Although the ototoxic impact of aspirin is well known, it has been uncertain among non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which, along with aspirin, are the three most commonly used drugs in the United States.

More than 26,000 men who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were included in this new study. A questionnaire was used to determine the men’s use of analgesics, hearing loss, and various other factors.

The researchers found that among aspirin users, those younger than 50 and those 50-59 were 33 % more likely to have hearing loss than were non-regular users, but there was no association between men aged 60 years and older. Among NSAID users, men younger than 50 who took them regularly were 61%more likely, men aged 50-59 were 32% more likely, and those aged 60 and older were 16% more likely to develop hearing loss than men who were not regular NSAID users.

Men who used acetaminophen regularly who were younger than 50 were 99% more likely, those 50-59 were 38 % more likely, and those aged 60 and older were 16% more likely to experience hearing loss than non-regular users of acetaminophen.

The bottom line is this.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of hearing loss. Advancing age is a strong risk factor, along with some medical conditions, certain medications, exposure to excessive noise and genetics as well as the frequent use of ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin. Even though these common drugs are widely available, it is important to remember they are still drugs and may have side effects. Therefore it makes sense to discuss the long-term use of these products with your doctor.


Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and practicing audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is an experienced professional whose career has been devoted

to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly.

With over 23 years of experience, Dr. Crosby’s career path is marked by the pursuit of advanced education. After completing her undergraduate requirements, she received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Florida State University and her Doctorate in Audiology from the University of Florida.

Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby just completed her second term as president of The Florida Academy of Audiology.

941-474-8393 | www.drnoelcrosby.com

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