NSAIDs and Non-Aspirin
Regular use of certain pain relievers can contribute to an increased risk of the patient’s development of hearing loss. Because of this, patients may wish to explore alternative options for pain management which do not come with the same risks. NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Other names for those which fall under this category of drugs include Advil, Aleve, Motrin, ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
These medications are available in both over-the-counter and prescription formats, and these pills are non-narcotic pain relievers. They are used for the management of various painful conditions, such as:
- rheumatoid arthritis,
- menstrual pain,
- migraines and headaches,
- psoriatic arthritis,
- ankylosing spondylitis,
- and other types of muscle pain and stiffness.
Aspirin can also “inhibit platelet aggregation”. Because a lot of NSAIDs are available without a prescription, it is easier for patients to take too many or for an extended period of time without knowing the risks which are associated with their consumption.1
Some of the Risks Associated with NSAIDs
In terms of NSAIDs, the general adverse side effects have typically been shown to be renal and gastrointestinal, which include such damage like bleeding and ulcers. Some patients may have an increased risk of stroke and myocardial infarction.2 Acetaminophen (paracetamol), is also used for fever reduction and pain relief. It is known as a non-aspirin pain reliever. Tylenol is a brand name of this type of medication. Acetaminophen can be well tolerated in people with gastrointestinal bleeding problems. However, there is still the risk that it could cause liver damage, especially when the patient combines its use with the consumption of alcohol.3
Pain Relievers Linked to Hearing Loss
Popular NSAID and non-aspirin pain relievers have been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss. Acetaminophen may cause a depletion of the factors that keep the cochlea, which is an important part of the ear, protected, leaving it susceptible to a greater risk of damage. NSAIDs may cause a reduction in the amount of blood flow to the cochlea so that its function is impaired. Even taking acetaminophen for only 2-3 days per week can increase hearing loss risk by 11%. Taking it 4-5 days per week can increase the risk by 21%. Taking ibuprofen for those same amounts of time can increase the risk of hearing loss even more. At 6+ days per week, the risk is increased to 24%.4
Studies Show Increased Hearing Loss Risk
The 2012 study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed that the increased risk of hearing loss caused by these medications appeared to be greater in women who are under the age of 50. Aspirin, in this case, appeared not to cause the same issues.5 In 2010, in a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers found that aspirin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen all increased hearing loss risks in men who are younger than the age of 60.6 The 2012 study of women did not show the same risks with naproxen and aspirin as it did with ibuprofen and acetaminophen.7
Patients may not be aware of how much of these medications they are actually taking, since analgesics are added to even other types of drugs, such as cold medicine. This means that a patient who has been trying to avoid overdoing the regularity of taking NSAIDs to avoid the risks could still experience the same side effects without knowing the cause. It has been long known that temporary hearing loss and ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, have been associated with high doses of aspirin. The studies that examined the long-term uses of analgesics, in moderate doses, have demonstrated how these medications are otoxic (toxic to the ears) in men and in women.8
Alternative Options for Managing and Treating Pain
Patients should consult with their health care provider before starting or stopping medication. Patients who have concerns about the effects of these medications should discuss other, less risk-prone options for treating or managing the condition where they would have otherwise used NSAIDs.
There are safer, alternative care options for patients experiencing musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and other conditions. Exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) options such as chiropractic care, massage, and acupuncture may be beneficial in relieving pain, preventing pain, and avoiding the long-term side effects of medications.
Chiropractic care is a treatment option which is commonly used to relieve back pain. It can also help the patient reduce the pain that they experience in other areas of the body, such as the neck. Chiropractors manually manipulate and adjust the body, sometimes with the use of tools, and recommend lifestyle changes that the patient might try for continuing pain management and treatment at home. Massage therapy helps enhance blood flow, which reduces stress and relieves tension that the patient is likely experiencing as a result of what ails them. These are just two examples of methods of treatment and management that do not carry the same side effects as NSAIDs.9
Learn more about the chiropractic alternative to pain medications.