It’s a nearly $500 billion industry and one country accounts for almost half of that consumption. That country would be the USA. The product is pharmaceuticals.
Whether you’re buying medications over-the-counter or taking ones that your doctor prescribes, all medications carry risk. Unfortunately, many consumers don’t seem to pay attention to the risks.
Side effects and risks may be listed in the paperwork, but people never think they’ll be the ones to experience side effects.
That’s why emphasizing that some medications may increase your risk of hearing loss is so important. Here’s are several you need to know about.
1. Over the Counter Painkillers
Many people are shocked to hear that something they take so casually could cause hearing loss.
Researchers looked at the type of painkillers, frequency and duration in addition to hearing loss frequency. This link can be supported by several studies of both men and women.
A collaborative study among Harvard, Brigham Young and Women’s Hospital found that long-term, regular use of over-the-counter pain killers is the most damaging. Regular use is 2 or more times a week. You generally see this frequency in people with chronic pain.
Taking too much aspirin at once can cause temporary hearing loss, which may become permanent over time.
NSAID drugs that contain ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen seem to be the most common.
But you may be shocked to find the one with the strongest link. The drug commonly known as acetaminophen was the culprit. Men under 50 saw their hearing loss risk nearly double if they were using this drug to treat chronic pain.
Just for the record, prescription painkillers aren’t any better. Here are a few prescription drugs that may cause hearing loss:
The exact cause of the hearing loss is unclear. These drugs may reduce blood flow to your sensitive inner ear, which over time would kill nerves that pick up sound.
2. Some Antibiotics
Many antibiotics are probably relatively safe when used as directed and you’re not allergic. But a certain type of antibiotic may increase risk of hearing loss.
Studies are in the initial stages so we haven’t seen data on human studies yet. The animal-testing results are convincing the medical community that there may be something to be concerned about.
Mice that took these antibiotics over a period of time eventually lost their hearing permanently every time.
Aminoglycoside antibiotics are commonly used to treat:
- Bacterial meningitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Some other respiratory diseases
Unlike most antibiotics, they’re more often used over an extended period of time to treat very persistent infections.
Until recently, Neomycin was actually a very common antibiotic used to treat children’s ear infections and pneumonia. Side effect concerns over the years have led doctors to prescribe alternatives.
More research is needed to determine why some antibiotics may contribute to hearing loss. It appears that they may cause inflammation in the inner ear that causes long-term damage.
3. Chemo Drugs
You know there will be side effects when you go through chemo. Doctors are filling the body with toxins in an effort to kill cancer cells. These toxins can’t often tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer.
Some of the drugs under scrutiny are:
- Cisplatin commonly known as Platinol
- Carboplatin commonly known as Paraplatin
- Bleomycin commonly known as Blenoxane
4. Loop Diuretics
You may be using diuretics to help regulate fluid balance in your body. As with any attempt to regulate something with medication, you can go too far in one direction, dehydrating the body.
This can cause salt to water ratios to get too high in the body, causing inflammation. This can cause hearing loss, which is usually temporary. But if the imbalance is allowed to go on or keeps happening, loss could be permanent.
Taking loop diuretics with ototoxic drugs (the drugs listed in this article) could make the long-term damage much worse.
Lasix is the most commonly known loop diuretic.
What to Do If You’re Taking These Drugs
Never stop taking a drug that has been prescribed by a doctor without talking to your doctor first.
Take inventory of your medicine cabinet. If your doctor has you on one or more of these drugs, ask if there are alternatives that may reduce risk.
Make lifestyle changes to reduce your need for medications. In some cases, small changes to diet and exercise routine can put you on a healthier path. They may be able to reduce pain, reduce water retention and strengthen the immune system.
If you are or have been using these medications, get your hearing tested. Hearing loss can progress very slowly, making it less detectable at first. But it’s impacting your health and happiness in ways you may not realize.
Talk to a hearing specialist about your options.