1. Zolot, Joan PA


Duration of aspirin use, however, doesn't affect hearing.


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Long-term regular use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen has been linked to hearing loss in women, according to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health.


Analgesics such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs, including aspirin, are the most commonly used medications in the United States. Prior studies showed they may be toxic to the ear or its nerves, possibly impairing outer hair function or reducing vascular supply to the cochlea.


This new study is the first to examine the effect of duration of analgesic use on hearing; it involved 55,850 women in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study, none of whom reported difficulty hearing when the study began.


From 1990 and every two years thereafter, participants reported their average use of NSAIDs, aspirin (separately from other NSAIDs), and acetaminophen. Those who took medication two or more days per week were categorized as regularly using the medication for that two-year cycle while those who took medication less than two days per week were categorized as "no regular use" for that cycle. Duration of medication use was then classified as less than one year (for those consistently reporting "no regular use"), one to two years, three to four years, five to six years, and more than six years.


In 2012, the women were asked if they were experiencing hearing problems, and if so, at what age these began. (Self-reported hearing loss, even without confirmation by audiometry, is considered reliable.) There were 18,663 new cases of hearing loss reported. Women who took either NSAIDs (not including aspirin) or acetaminophen regularly for six years or more had significantly higher rates of hearing loss than those who took them for less than one year. Aspirin use of any duration wasn't associated with hearing loss.


The number of women with an increased risk of hearing loss attributable to long-term NSAID or acetaminophen use was small-only 5.5% of study participants were calculated to have been affected. However, hearing loss is an extremely common problem, affecting two-thirds of women in their 60s. The study suggests a need for greater awareness of the possible influence of analgesics on hearing, and caution in their use.-Joan Zolot, PA




Lin BM, et al Am J Epidemiol 2017 185 1 40-7