Can OTC Pain Relievers Cause Tinnitus? Posted on March 18, 2022 by Advanced ENT & Allergy Tinnitus is a phantom ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing, humming or buzzing sound in the ears. While there’s no external sound source that causes these sounds, you may feel as if you’re standing under bells at the Cathedral Basilica. Triggers for tinnitus include stress, sleep deprivation, loud noises, dehydration and a high sodium diet. A recent study shows that over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications may be another cause of tinnitus. About the Study The research that reveals the connection between OTC pain relievers and tinnitus is a data analysis from the Nurses’ Health Study II. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to examine the overlap between women who take OTC pain relievers and those who have a history of tinnitus symptoms. They found that women who report frequent use of certain OTC pain relievers were more likely to report tinnitus. More specifically, compared to those who didn’t take OTC pain relievers regularly: Frequent users (6-7 times a week) of a moderate dose of aspirin had a 16% higher risk of tinnitus. This was only the case for women under 60; the same risk was not seen in women over 60. Frequent users of a low dose of aspirin did not have an elevated risk either.Frequent users of NSAIDs or acetaminophen had a 20% higher risk of tinnitus. The more frequently they used these drugs, the higher their risk.Regular users (2+ days per week) of prescription COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex had a 20% higher risk of tinnitus as well. Practicing Caution with OTC Pain Relievers OTC analgesics certainly have benefits in the short-term, but this study shows there can be long-term consequences, especially with frequent use of a moderate dose. It’s important to be mindful about your usage of these drugs and limit their use when possible. If you’re experiencing tinnitus, discuss changing your medication with your doctor. How to Manage Tinnitus It may be the case that your tinnitus resolves if and when you stop taking OTC pain relievers. However, if this is not possible or practical for you, or if stopping doesn’t help, you may need to try other options. You can manage your tinnitus using the following: Hearing aids. If you have any degree of hearing loss along with your tinnitus, your audiologist will most likely recommend wearing hearing aids. These treat tinnitus by turning up the volume on sounds in your environment, so you’re more focused on them than the ringing in your ears. Some hearing aids even have built-in tinnitus maskers.Tinnitus maskers. Tinnitus maskers are hearing aid-like devices, except their only job is to provide masking noises, not amplify sounds.White noise machines. You can run a white noise machine in your house or office to mask the sounds of your tinnitus. Some machines play ocean or rainfall sounds. You can also turn on a fan or humidifier for the same effect.Counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) can both be effective in teaching you how to cope with your tinnitus. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call Advanced ENT & Allergy today.