Volume 123, Issue 3, Pages 231-237 (March 2010)

Analgesic Use and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Men

Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScMa, Roland Eavey, MDb, Josef Shargorodsky, MDac, Gary C. Curhan, MD, ScDad

Hearing loss is a common sensory disorder, yet prospective data on potentially modifiable risk factors are limited. Regularly used analgesics, the most commonly used drugs in the US, may be ototoxic and contribute to hearing loss.

We examined the independent association between self-reported professionally diagnosed hearing loss and regular use of aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and acetaminophen in 26,917 men aged 40-74 years at baseline in 1986. Study participants completed detailed questionnaires at baseline and every 2 years thereafter. Incident cases of new-onset hearing loss were defined as those diagnosed after 1986. Cox proportional hazards multivariate regression was used to adjust for potential confounding factors.

During 369,079 person-years of follow-up, 3488 incident cases of hearing loss were reported. Regular use of each analgesic was independently associated with an increased risk of hearing loss. Multivariate-adjusted hazard ratios of hearing loss in regular users (2+ times/week) compared with men who used the specified analgesic <2 times/week were 1.12 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.20) for aspirin, 1.21 (95% CI, 1.11-1.33) for NSAIDs, and 1.22 (95% CI, 1.07-1.39) for acetaminophen. For NSAIDs and acetaminophen, the risk increased with longer duration of regular use. The magnitude of the association was substantially higher in younger men. For men younger than age 50 years, the hazard ratio for hearing loss was 1.33 for regular aspirin use, 1.61 for NSAIDs, and 1.99 for acetaminophen.

Regular use of aspirin, NSAIDs, or acetaminophen increases the risk of hearing loss in men, and the impact is larger on younger individuals.