by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Until the mid 1990s, Acetaminophen (known as Paracetamol in Europe) was not thought to be ototoxic at all. Thus in the second edition of my book, “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed” I do not even mention Acetaminophen.
All that has changed. New research has revealed that rather than not being ototoxic at all, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is actually quite ototoxic.
Thus people who take high doses of Vicodin (a combination of Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone) for a number of months can develop almost total hearing loss.
Since Acetaminophen was “not ototoxic”, I assumed that it was the Hydrocodone that caused the massive hearing losses being reported. Not so according to research conducted at the House Ear Institute. They found, to their surprise, that it was the Acetaminophen that was ototoxic and not the Hydrocodone.
You see, in high doses, Acetaminophen kills the liver, thus you die before massive hearing loss has a chance to develop. However, the researchers found that when taking Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen, somehow the Hydrocodone protected the liver. Thus you lived to tell the tale, but massive hearing loss could be a result.
Now, another study, reported in the American Journal of Medicine (Vol. 123, Issue 3, March, 2010), reveals that even just taking low doses of Acetaminophen over several years results in increased risk of hearing loss.
For example, in a study of 26,917 men between the ages of 40 and 75 at the beginning of the study, men that used Acetaminophen at least twice a week had a 22% increased risk of hearing loss. However, when only men under the age of 50 were considered, the increased risk factor skyrocketed to 99%.
This reveals that Acetaminophen, when taken regularly over as few as 1 to 4 years can slowly and insidiously destroy your hearing without your even being aware of it. You have been warned.
To learn which drugs are (or can be) ototoxic, see “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed“. This book contains information on the ototoxicity of 877 drugs, 35 herbs and 148 chemicals.