Painkillers destroy hearing
October 3, 2003 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Painkillers destroy hearing - Looks like America's fascination with Vicodin, Oxycotin, and other hardcore painkillers has a lasting effect other than addiction. Studies are showing that "rapid hearing loss, even deafness, in some patients who are misusing the drugs". This is serious enough for Vicodin's manufacturer to add a "warning about the potential for hearing loss to the drug's label."

Is Rush Limbaugh's sudden deafness and recent involvement in a painkiller drug investigation simply a coincidence?
posted by Argyle (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by quonsar at 11:48 AM on October 3, 2003

Does his addiction also explain his recent political deafness too? Harharhar!
posted by ~rschram at 11:49 AM on October 3, 2003

The Smoking Gun has the full skinny on the Florida allegations.

They also referred to oxycotin as "hillbilly heroin." I've never heard of it, but it cracked me up.
posted by mathowie at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2003

I thought the whole hearing loss thing was a cover for him to go have liposuction.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:53 AM on October 3, 2003

Thanks to Rush! I have just had hernia operation. Listening to the Rush story, I checked the pain killer I was given. Vicodin. I stopped taking and use aspirins instead. I will leave it to masturbation to destroy my hearing.
posted by Postroad at 11:59 AM on October 3, 2003

No, no, Postroad -- masturbation is for preventing cancer, remember? If you want to wreck your hearing, you'll need rock'n'roll.
posted by nickmark at 12:03 PM on October 3, 2003

Wait a sec-- wasn't the hearing loss problem why he stopped doing his daily radio show years ago? He's not my favorite person either, but "sudden deafness" is inaccurate (IIRC).
posted by yerfatma at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2003

Man, if Rush's addiction to painkillers meant that I couldn't hear him anymore, I'd send him a bottle a week.
posted by UKnowForKids at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2003

The ABC story seems strange ("[Limbaugh] said he first noticed symptoms in May") given there's a two year old article referencing Rush's "sudden hearing loss" (didn't realize that was a medical term, sorry if I misunderstood).
posted by yerfatma at 12:16 PM on October 3, 2003

Hey, I think this guy's a blowhard, but it is a little wierd to dance around while some guy's life falls apart. The National Enquirer broke the drug story, so a little skepticism might be in order, right? What if the Enquirer reported that George Bush was an alien, would there be a celebratory Metafilter thread? If the story isn't true, I hope people come back and read this stuff...

If it is true, and the urge to make fun of a drug addict is still this powerful, then there will be plenty of time as he bounces in and out of rehab and eventually dies on the toilet, but it seems a little premature to applaud just because his life is falling apart, without even being sure that it isn't because of a mistaken investigative reporter.

yes, I understand that he has said lots of hypocritical things about drug addiction
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2003

Has he even publically denied it at all? (The pills, I mean.)
If true this is really sad. It's sad for anyone to get hooked on this stuff. Painkillers are nothing to screw around with.
posted by konolia at 12:22 PM on October 3, 2003

Considering the amount of bile that he's spewed about drug addicts and those less fortunate, I'd say that a bit of schadenfreude is *exactly* what's in order.
posted by bshort at 12:26 PM on October 3, 2003

Limbaugh deserves deafness, addiction, ridicule, and maybe a kick in the groin.
posted by xmutex at 12:44 PM on October 3, 2003

Come again?
posted by jpburns at 12:44 PM on October 3, 2003

If this is found to be true, then he should have to live by his own rhetoric, and be shipped out of the country. He's on record saying that drug addicts are destroying the nation. But I guess he only meant the poor ones.
posted by archimago at 12:53 PM on October 3, 2003

Now he's deaf, blind, AND stupid.
posted by scarabic at 1:03 PM on October 3, 2003

For reference, here's a thread on Rush's first admission of deafness that is almost two years old to the day, and one of the first times I heard about the possible drug connection.
posted by mathowie at 1:19 PM on October 3, 2003

Also, being happy at his hearing loss is kinda lame. I'm kind of amused by the irony that he's addicted to a drug considering his past opinions on drug addiction, but still wishing evil things on (perhaps evil) people isn't the most human thing to do.
posted by mathowie at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2003

Time for your Meds blog, with nurse crazy Tracy writes Oxycotin is "heroin in a pill". Top prescription drugs of abuse.......and their street prices.

All schadenfreude aside, can we blame the drugs for his skewed views?

It must be the reason.......
posted by alicesshoe at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2003

Rush, Bennet, Swaggart... There's a lesson there about karma and hypocrisy for all.

On the actual subject of this thread - I'm not surprised about the side effects mentioned. In fact aspirin and several kinds of antibiotics are known "ototoxics" that can destroy your auditory nerve, and give you tinnitus (uncontrollable ringing in your ears) as well.

Oh but wait, they're prescription drugs, so hey, at least you won't get piss-tested for them at every turn!

Hypocrisy indeed...
posted by reality at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2003

Matt, i AM impressed.
posted by konolia at 1:29 PM on October 3, 2003

In my experience, as a man loses his hearing, his voice gets louder. This is not something I personally wish to happen to Mr. Limbaugh. His voice is plenty annoying enough already. So he should keep his hearing, get off the drugs, take his humble pie and run, tail 'tween legs as far away from public service and the spotlight as possible.

The only 'bad' thing I wanna see happen to him is for him to realize that his fifteen minutes are up. Believe me. That'll be enough punishment, but until he realize that, we need a posse to round up the tar & feathers.

Reality: "Rush, Bennet, Swaggart... There's a lesson there..."


To me it does not matter that he's (allegedly) abusing drugs, but that all these years he's said terrible things about people who do, and yet his situation is somehow different? He didn't suggest compassion for drug abusers, yet we are to show compassion for him? Perhaps this is why he hasn't yet made a public statement on the topic. He's trying to figure out how he can spin it without digging himself further into the hole.

This has not been a good couple of years for Rush, but he made his own bed. I say we tar & feather him in it. Or just run him out of radio city on a rail.

nickmark: "If you want to wreck your hearing, you'll need rock'n'roll."

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm already workin' on that this weekend.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:40 PM on October 3, 2003

The National Enquirer broke the drug story, so a little skepticism might be in order, right?

Ok so, National Enquirer not your taste?

How about:

USA today, Newsday, ABC News and even Faux
Or just search google news yourself if you are in doubt.
All except the epitome of Fair and Balanced® Newsmax,
who are convinced he was framed.

"'When you strip it all away," Rush had said of the Grateful Dead guitarist, "Jerry Garcia
destroyed his life on drugs. And yet he's being honored, like some godlike figure.
Our priorities are out of whack, folks."

No, Rush, it's your priorities that are out of whack, believe it or not, the rest of us are just fine.
posted by milovoo at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2003

Well at least those unfortunate souls addicted to "Hill Billy Heroin" have access to a clean, regulated drug of a consistent purity, OxyContin is made in 10, 20, 40 and 80mg tablets, so nobody is dying from it or anything.
posted by soren at 2:03 PM on October 3, 2003

I'm not wishing deafness on him, I am just implicitly declaring my complete lack of sympathy.
posted by xmutex at 2:27 PM on October 3, 2003

Those street prices are pretty nuts. 60$ USD for morphine? They go for about ten times less up here in Canada. Not to mention, you can buy acetaminophen w/codeine over the counter here for about fifty times less than the US street price listed.
posted by Jairus at 2:27 PM on October 3, 2003

Metafilter Drug Swap
posted by Outlawyr at 2:33 PM on October 3, 2003

I briefly worked for a doctor who specialized in drug addiction. A vast majority of the cases were for Oxycontin. There was also a rash of breakins at pharmacies around that time of people stealing the drug. It's a prescription opiate. That's the terrible thing: these people were prescribed the drug for an injury and wound up hooked, often switching to heroin. Nothing to do with free will, everything to do with biochemistry and pharmacology.

Not that such a simple fact of science will change Limbaugh's opinions, most likely. But can we use his own logic against him? Please please please?

Bloated windbag.
posted by solistrato at 2:34 PM on October 3, 2003

In fact aspirin and several kinds of antibiotics are known "ototoxics" that can destroy your auditory nerve, and give you tinnitus (uncontrollable ringing in your ears) as well.

Not to mention destroying your sense of balance, as well--this happened to the mother of a friend of mine...
posted by jokeefe at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2003

I get what you're saying, Matt; however, you're talking about someone who evangelizes hate for a living. I'm not exactly thrilled he's going deaf, but if it indeed is due to addiction to drugs he obtained illegally (and this is still purely rumor, right? nothing has been proven), then I would probably not bother to feel bad about it.

It's not just that he would condemn someone in the same situation; it is that he would encourage others to condemn them as well.

I happen to work with treating people who must legitimately use large amounts of pain medications--including OxyContin--just to function on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, they must take quantities of such medication at a level and rate that would be classified as addiction (in the same way a diabetic is 'addicted' to insulin); they must be slowly withdrawn from the medication in order to stop it. The unfortunate part of stories like this is that it makes it harder on such patients, as they can often be treated--by friends, family, insurance providers, and even physicians less versed in pain management--as suspected criminal users themselves.
posted by troybob at 4:31 PM on October 3, 2003

I'm too lazy to look it up, but is there any connection between the drugs and his weight loss? The guy used to be a balloon, but he's only slightly pudgy now. I wonder if his obesity was the reason that he started taking the pills in the first place. That, or to dull the pain in his mind from the hate mongering that he spews and a possible guilt complex that he has created inside of himself. ... I'm going with the weight loss theory.

Oh, this is all alleged.
posted by graventy at 5:10 PM on October 3, 2003

Well at least those unfortunate souls addicted to "Hill Billy Heroin" have access to a clean, regulated drug of a consistent purity, OxyContin is made in 10, 20, 40 and 80mg tablets, so nobody is dying from it or anything.

Not so. In fact quite a few people have died from taking it, albeit from crushing it before taking it, but OxyContin isn't something to screw around with.

Oxyabusekills has multiple stories of deaths from Oxy use.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:15 PM on October 3, 2003

Also, being happy at his hearing loss is kinda lame. I'm kind of amused by the irony that he's addicted to a drug considering his past opinions on drug addiction

So wait, it's okay to be amused by ill-fortune but not happy about it?
posted by rushmc at 5:42 PM on October 3, 2003

So, if I take enough of this shit, I won't have to hear the shrieking harpies on the right wing anymore? Sweet. No more music, voices of loved ones, crashing of waves, kiss of gentle breeze, and gentle chirping of little birdies? Small price to pay.
posted by stonerose at 7:47 PM on October 3, 2003

So wait, it's okay to be amused by ill-fortune but not happy about it?

rushmc, one does hope that your natural sense of chuckling at the the absurd returns soon, after what must have been a rough week for you, judging by recent posts. hang in there.
posted by stonerose at 7:52 PM on October 3, 2003

What if the Enquirer reported that George Bush was an alien, would there be a celebratory Metafilter thread?

Legal or illegal alien?
posted by biffa at 6:02 AM on October 6, 2003

Argyle may now add Salon tipster to his CV:

Did popping painkillers make Rush lose his hearing?

The drugs Limbaugh is rumored to have abused are known to cause sudden hearing loss. But his doctors insist there's a different diagnosis.

By Tim Grieve

The following are excerpts from the article, posted here as "fair use" since I am making not one cent in doing so:

Oct. 7, 2003 | When Rush Limbaugh announced two years ago that he had suddenly gone deaf, he was uncharacteristically circumspect about the possible cause. "There is a theory as to what's happening," Limbaugh told his listeners in October 2001, "but I'm going to keep that to myself. It's not genetic. There's something more going on than that."

Was the "something more" Limbaugh's abuse of painkillers?

The New York Daily News reported last week that Limbaugh is under investigation for buying "thousands of addictive pain killers from a black-market drug ring." Relying heavily on a story that first appeared in the National Enquirer, the Daily News reported that Limbaugh's former housekeeper claims to have supplied him with massive quantities of OxyContin, Lorcet and hydrocodone between 1998 and 2002.

Lorcet -- which, like Vicodin, is a mixture of hydrocodone and acetaminophen -- has been linked to sudden and profound hearing loss in patients who misuse or abuse the drug. First in 1999 and then more forcefully in the summer of 2001, physicians at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles warned doctors and consumers of a "possible correlation between permanent hearing loss" and hydrocodone-acetaminophen combinations such as Lorcet and Vicodin. The Los Angeles Times reported in September 2001 that doctors at House and other Southern California medical facilities had identified 48 patients who suffered hearing loss after taking exceptionally high doses of the drugs.

Coincidentally -- or not -- Limbaugh turned to the House Ear Institute after he began experiencing what doctors there called "rapidly progressive hearing loss" in May 2001. Limbaugh announced his hearing loss on Oct. 8, 2001, after listeners to his show began to notice that his voice had lost some of its usual basso profundo thunder. The news of Limbaugh's hearing loss was greeted with something approaching mourning on the right; the White House expressed George W. Bush's personal concern for Limbaugh and said that the president considered him a "national treasure."

Three days later, doctors at House told reporters that they were treating Limbaugh for "hearing loss resulting from autoimmune inner ear disease," or AIED. The doctors said that they based their diagnosis on Limbaugh's "medical history and hearing tests." However, they noted at the time that "Mr. Limbaugh does not display most of the symptoms associated with AIED."

House physicians issued a statement late last week in which they stuck with their diagnosis of AIED, despite the surfacing of allegations that Limbaugh had abused one of the drugs House previously identified as causing hearing loss. "The AIED diagnosis has not changed, and the House Ear Clinic continues to consult Mr. Limbaugh regarding his treatment for this disorder, and to follow up with him regarding his cochlear implant," they said.

In the statement, the House doctors said that hearing loss caused by an overdose of Vicodin-type drugs "usually occurs over a period of days," while hearing loss caused by AIED typically occurs "over a period of several weeks to months." Limbaugh's hearing loss reportedly took several months, from May through September 2001.

But Dr. Gail Ishiyama, a UCLA neurotologist studying the mechanism that triggers hearing loss in Vicodin users, said that there is no real way to tell the difference between AIED and Vicodin-induced hearing loss -- unless the patient confesses to drug abuse. "It can present very similarly," she told Salon Monday, "and unless the patient tells you that they're abusing the Vicodin or other pain medication, you wouldn't know the difference."

...Ironically, when Limbaugh made his announcement in October 2001, he told listeners that they "would not believe the medication that is flowing through me in an attempt to reverse this." He said: "I'm popping pills [and] I'm shooting up stuff. I've never done stuff like this before." The medication ultimately proved ineffective, and Limbaugh received a cochlear implant in 2001, reportedly restoring much of his hearing and allowing him to continue working.

Premiere Radio Networks, which distributes Limbaugh's show, referred calls about his hearing loss to the House clinic. Meanwhile, Limbaugh has been circumspect about the allegations that he abused drugs -- and silent altogether about any possible link between drug abuse and his hearing loss. On his radio show Monday, Limbaugh mentioned the drug-related allegations against him but offered no specific information.

"I am waiting to find out just exactly what I am facing legally, and until I know that, I'm not going to say anything -- much less, I can't," Limbaugh told listeners Monday. "When such time comes, fear not, what there is to be known will be known and I will tell you. But until it is permissible and makes sense for me to tell you that, I can't and I won't."

posted by y2karl at 2:44 PM on October 7, 2003

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