Tinnitus is a ringing, screeching, hissing, whistling, roaring, whooshing or humming sound. Though there is no external source for these sounds, you may feel as though you’re standing under St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. There are many things that can exacerbate tinnitus; taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers is one of them.
What the Research Shows
A new data analysis from the Nurse’s Health Study II found that women who frequently use certain OTC painkillers are more likely to experience tinnitus. “Frequent use” was defined as taking a medication such as aspirin, acetaminophen and other NSAIDs like naproxen every day or almost every day.
The study found that:
- Frequently taking (6-7 days a week) a moderate dose of aspirin was associated with a 16% higher risk of tinnitus among women under 60, but this risk was not seen in women over 60.
- Frequently taking a lower dose of aspirin was not associated with an elevated risk of tinnitus.
- Frequent use of NSAIDs or acetaminophen was associated with a 20% higher risk of tinnitus. The more frequent the use, the higher the risk.
- Regular use (2+ days a week) of prescription COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex was associated with a 20% higher risk of tinnitus.
Taking Care with Ototoxic Drugs
Though OTC analgesics have benefits with short-term use, frequent use over long periods of time may increase the risk of tinnitus and other negative health effects. This is why it’s important to be mindful and limit the use of these drugs as much as possible. You should also discuss a change in medication use with your doctor.
Tinnitus Management Options
While it’s possible your tinnitus will resolve once you stop taking OTC pain relievers, this may not be the case. In fact, in many cases, tinnitus has no cure. Fortunately, there are many options for managing the condition.
- Changing medication. While one OTC pain reliever may trigger tinnitus, another might not. Talk to your doctor about your options.
- Hearing aids. Hearing aids can be used to treat tinnitus because they essentially turn up the volume on other sounds in your environment, drowning out your tinnitus.
- Masking devices. These devices look like hearing aids but produce masking sounds like white noise to cover your tinnitus.
- White noise machines. White noise machines can play sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves to drown out your tinnitus. The same effect can be achieved by turning on a fan or humidifier.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) can be effective to teach you how to cope with your tinnitus.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Valley Audiology today.