From Ouch! To Say What?

Hearing loss increases with frequent pain reliever usage

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many women use over-the-counter pain relievers for the aches and pains of daily living. But they may not track how many they take over a week. It might be a good idea to start.

A new study found that women who use ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week have a higher risk of hearing loss. 

These researchers emphasized that ibuprofen is not aspirin. Researchers found no relationship between aspirin use and hearing loss.

"Use pain relievers sparingly."

Sharon G. Curhan, MD, of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Channing Division of Network Medicine, and colleagues led the study to find out if there was a relationship between frequent analgesic, or pain reliever, use and hearing loss among women.

The researchers used data from 62,261 of the women enrolled in the large-scale Nurses’ Health Study II. The participants were registered nurses aged 25 to 42 years old from 15 different states at the time the study began in 1989.

The nurses were primarily white, with 2 percent self-reported as African-American, 2 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian-American.

Women who already had hearing loss or a health condition requiring frequent analgesic use as of 1995 were not included.

Participants received questionnaires in the mail every other year during the study period. Among other things, women were asked about how often they used pain relievers, specifically ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Advil and Aleve), acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) and aspirin.

In 2009, the nurses were asked if they had experienced mild, moderate or severe hearing loss since they had started the study and, if so, when it started.

Hearing loss was reported by 10,012 of the women.

Of those cases, women who used ibuprofen two to three times per week had a 13 percent higher risk for hearing loss compared to the women who used it less than once per week.

Those who took ibuprofen four to five times per week had a 21 percent higher risk; those who took it six to seven times weekly increased their risk by 24 percent.

Women who used acetaminophen two to three days per week had 11 percent higher risk for hearing loss compared to the women who used it less than once per week. Those who took it four to five times weekly had a 21 percent higher risk.

"If individuals find a need to take these types of medications regularly, they should consult with their healthcare professional to discuss the risks and benefits and to explore other possible alternatives," said Dr. Curhan.

The study was published online August 29 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 23, 2012
Last Updated:
October 26, 2012