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Risk of Hearing Loss in Men Increased by Regular Use of Analgesics


Researchers have found the risk of hearing loss in males is increased by regular use of analgesics such as aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This is especially true for men younger than age 60.

The new study is published in the March 2010 issue of The American Journal of Medicine and comes from Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Vanderbilt University and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston researchers looking at factors other than age and noise that might influence the risk of hearing lose.

Hearing loss is the most common sensory disorder in the United States. It affects over 36 million people. Hearing loss is very prevalent among the elderly, but also affects approximately one third of those aged 40-49 years.

The 3 most commonly used drugs in the U.S are the analgesics aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. The ototoxic effects of aspirin are well known and the ototoxicity of NSAIDs has been suggested.

The researchers used participants from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study which originally enrolled 51,529 male dentists, optometrists, osteopaths, pharmacists, podiatrists, and veterinarians who were 40-75 years of age at baseline in 1986. Study participants filled out detailed questionnaires about diet, medical history, and medication use on an every other year basis. The 20-year follow-up exceeds 90%.

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The 2004 long-form questionnaire included a question about whether the participant had been professionally diagnosed with hearing loss, and if so, the date of diagnosis. Of the 31,496 men who returned the long-form questionnaire, 8291 (26.3%) reported a diagnosis of hearing loss. Several (2845) were excluded from the analysis due to reported hearing loss diagnosed before 1986 or cancer other than nonmelanoma skin cancer (due to possible exposure to ototoxic chemotherapeutic agents). Also excluded were men age 75 or older due to age being such a strong risk factor and the high prevalence of hearing loss among the elderly. The number of men included in the analysis was 26,917.

Regular use was defined as 2 or more times per week, of aspirin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen.

Regular users of aspirin under 50 and those aged 50-59 years were 33% more likely to have hearing loss than were non-regular users. There was no association among men aged 60 years and older.

Regular users of NSAIDs aged under 50 were 61% more likely, those aged 50-59 were 32% more likely, and those aged 60 and older were 16% more likely to develop hearing loss than non-regular users of NSAIDs.

Regular users of acetaminophen aged under 50 were 99% more likely, regular users aged 50-59 were 38% more likely, and those aged 60 and older were 16% more likely to have hearing loss than non-regular users of acetaminophen.

Writing in the article, Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM, Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues state, "Regular use of analgesics, specifically aspirin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen, might increase the risk of adult hearing loss, particularly in younger individuals. Given the high prevalence of regular analgesic use and health and social implications of hearing impairment, this represents an important public health issue."

Analgesic Use and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Men; American Journal of Medicine, Volume 123, Issue 3; Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM, Roland Eavey, MD, Josef Shargorodsky, MD, Gary C. Curhan, MD, ScD.



Your information really make me worry - if aspirin could be so harmful. Thanks a lot for your discussion!