Regular use of aspirin, acetaminophen, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) raises the risk of hearing loss in men, with the greatest impact observed among those younger than age 60 years.
On analyzing data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, investigators discovered that regular analgesic use (defined as taking an analgesic two or more times per week) was independently associated with increased risk of hearing loss for all three types of pain relievers.
Regular aspirin users younger than 50 as well as those aged 50 to 59 years were 33% more likely than nonregular users to have hearing loss, but no association existed among men aged 60 years and older.
Regular NSAID users younger than age 50 were 61% more likely than nonregular users to develop hearing loss; men aged 50 to 59 years were 32% more likely, and those aged 60 years and older were 16% more likely.
Regular acetaminophen users younger than age 50 years were 99% more likely than nonregular users to develop hearing loss; 50-to-59 year-olds were 38% more likely, and those age 60 years and older were, again, 16% more likely.
For the combined use of any two analgesics, the risk was highest for users of NSAIDs and acetaminophen, compared with men who used none of the agents regularly. This risk was similar to the impact of regular use of all three analgesics.
Hearing-loss risk increased with longer duration of regular use of NSAIDs and acetaminophen but not aspirin.
“Given the high prevalence of regular analgesic use and health and social implications of hearing impairment, this represents an important public health issue,” acknowledged the authors (Am J Med. 2010;123:231-237).