Painkillers are some of the most common forms of medication. Most people automatically reach for a painkiller, whenever they feel any pain, such as a headache, and the drugs they do work. Unfortunately, painkillers also have their side effects. For example, some common painkillers have been linked to hearing loss in women:
Researchers at a women's hospital conducted a study that revealed that women who took acetaminophen or ibuprofen at least two days per week experienced an increased risk of hearing loss. Increasing the frequency of the medication resulted in a corresponding increase of hearing loss risk. The researchers also found that older women (taking the painkillers) experienced more serious hearing loss compared to their younger counterparts.
Why It Happens
One theory for the increased risk of hearing loss is that the drugs impede blood flow to the cochlea. The cochlea is the spiral cavity in your inner ear; it produces nerve impulses that correspond to sound vibrations in your ear. The nerve impulses travel to the brain for interpretation into meaningful sounds. If the cochlea isn't working efficiently, it won't generate the nerve impulses necessary for proper hearing.
Another theory is that the drugs destroy factors that protect the cochlea from damage. A damaged cochlea can process sounds efficiently, leading to hearing loss.
Managing Pain without Painkillers
A good way of dealing with these complications is to reduce your overreliance in painkillers. Use alternative methods of pain relief whenever possible. These alternatives include:
- Herbal alternatives – Some herbal extracts are good for pain relief, and they may not have serious side effects like conventional painkillers. For example, turmeric can relieve arthritic pain. To ensure you are using safe herbs, check with the American Pain Foundation and talk to your doctor first.
- Physiotherapy – Physical therapy helps to release endorphins in your body, which block pain receptors in your brain to block pain. Exercise also helps your tissues to heal fast.
- Manage your stress – Physical pain is a common manifestation of stress. Therefore, dealing with your stress may help in pain relief.
Ideally, you shouldn't get into the habit of popping pain pills every time you feel pain. If you are dealing with chronic pain, consult your physician to help diagnose and treat its main cause.
Hopefully, you haven't been taking pain medications long enough for it to interfere with your hearing. All isn't lost, however, if your hearing is already impaired. Various forms of hearing loss treatment, including hearing aids, are available to help you regain all or partial hearing; consult an audiologist for diagnosis and treatment.