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Pain meds linked to hearing loss; get to the root cause instead

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When the body hurts, people reach for over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers to ease their suffering; they are the most frequently used medications in the United States. Although they offer easy-access pain relief, they have been linked to hearing loss and you may want to be careful about using them on a regular basis.

A Harvard-affiliated  study  published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that frequent use of the painkillers ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may contribute to hearing loss. The study tracked more than 60,000 women during 14 years and found a 13 percent increased risk of hearing loss in those who took pain relievers two to three days per week, while the risk increased to up to 24 percent in those using it six to seven days per week. The findings are similar to another study that found aspirin to be a risk factor for hearing loss in men.

Why do these medications affect hearing loss? Researchers say ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear, which could result in cellular damage and cell death. Also, acetaminophen may deplete the antioxidant  glutathione, which protects the cochlea from damage.

Does this mean you should avoid OTC painkillers such as Advil and Tylenol? Although they can offer effective pain relief for many people, the study's author says their use should be limited as much as possible and that people should instead explore alternatives.

Rooting out the Problem

If your chronic pain compels you to take painkillers on a regular basis, consider bypassing the conventional band aid approach of simply treating symptoms and look for the root cause of the problem.

Conventional pain management relies on pharmacological applications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), narcotics, and antidepressant pain modifiers, yet these approaches can build dependencies — and potential hearing loss. While they relieve symptoms, they are a temporary fix for a chronic problem.

Alternatively, functional medicine addresses the root cause of pain, taking into account genetic, medical, environmental, and lifestyle factors that contribute to chronic pain and the  inflammation  associated with it. This offers a sustainable solution by getting to the root of the problem.

A Personal Plan That's an Alternative to Chronic Pain

Depending on your unique needs, your pain management plan may involve the following changes, all of which can have a profound effect on chronic pain and  inflammation:

  • Herbal and nutritional compounds
  • Therapeutic body work
  • Meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Dietary changes
  • Exercise adjustments
  • Strategies to improve sleep quality
  • Stress management

The Takeaway: Take the Pain Away!

While OTC pain meds offer instant relief, they ignore the root of the problem, pose unnecessary risks, and only offer temporary relief. However, a pain management program that addresses the underlying cause of pain can offer a long-lasting, healthy, and sustainable way to free yourself from pain.

Nobody likes to live with chronic pain, whether it's a mild headache or debilitating back aches. I am trained to look at the contributing factors behind your pain and to create a personalized pain management. Don't wait another day to get to the root of the problem!

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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