Health Buzz: Huh? Erectile Dysfunction Drugs May Damage Hearing

Viagra might lead to hearing loss; new drug promises to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

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Viagra May Damage Hearing

Taking Viagra or similar drugs that treat erectile dysfunction (ED) could lead to hearing loss, according to a study newly published in the Archives of Otolaryngology— Head and Neck Surgery. Researchers looked at data on more than 11,500 men over age 40 and found that those who took ED drugs had double the risk of hearing problems, HealthDay reports. The Food and Drug Administration already requires ED medicines, like Cialis, to carry a warning about the risk of hearing loss. But the current research further strengthens the agency's concern.

ED drugs are part of a class known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, which work by stimulating blood flow to certain tissues. Despite the risk of hearing loss associated with ED treatments, the condition shouldn't be ignored, since it can signal serious health problems, as U.S. News's Lindsay Lyon wrote in March.

Previous studies have suggested that men with ED are at greater risk of heart attack, cardiac death, and stroke. So what do erections have to do with gauging cardiovascular health? "An erection is a vascular phenomenon," according to Robert Kloner, director of research at Good Samaritan Hospital's Heart Institute and a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California. While there are many causes of ED, it's most often the result of a vascular issue preventing enough blood from getting where it needs to go, he said. [Read more: The Big Risk in Just Living With Erectile Dysfunction.]

Not in the Mood? You Could Have Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder

Not interested in sex? Perhaps you have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, caused by a brain chemical imbalance. That's the message conveyed in a new "educational campaign" launched last week by the Society of Women's Health Research with actress Lisa Rinna as a celebrity spokesperson talking about "the brain's potential role in desire." On the campaign's new website, you might conclude that if you're not fantasizing about sex a lot you should definitely talk to your doctor.

You won't, though, learn about any medications for HSDD—because there are no approved drugs for it, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. A new drug, called flibanserin, may be approved by the Food and Drug Administration after its advisory committee meets to discuss the drug next month. In the meantime, flibanserin manufacturer Boehringer-Ingelheim has funded an HSDD educational campaign to create demand for the drug, some experts say. And, yes, Rinna is a paid spokesperson.

"It's like priming the market," says Lisa Schwartz, an associate professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. "Disease awareness is a very important part of [preparing for] an upcoming ad campaign" for any new drug—which will no doubt occur if and when flibanserin is approved. [Read more: Not in the Mood? You Could Have Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.]

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