House vs. House: Vicodin Addiction and Hearing Loss

Hearing expert Dr. John House calls out Dr. Gregory House on Vicodin addiction.

ByABC News
September 19, 2008, 2:01 PM

Sept. 20, 2008— -- "Are you the famous Dr. House on television?"

During my career as a physician, there has been confusion regarding which Dr. House I am. I was confident that they were referring to my father, Dr. Howard House, the founder of the House Ear Institute, or my uncle, Dr. William House, who created and implanted the first FDA-approved cochlear implant.

But now I have discovered that there is another popular "Dr. House," TV's Dr. Gregory House on Fox's "House, M.D."

The show's popularity is not to be denied, but I have a very real concern about a message and theme that runs through each episode. It is not his poor bedside manner. It is not his mistreatment of residents. It is his addiction to Vicodin (acetaminophen/ hydrocodone) that is the problem.

Here at the House Clinic, my colleagues and I have seen a significant number of patients who have become addicted to Vicodin and have gone completely deaf. They have been taking 15 to 75 tablets per day and in a short period of time have developed a rapidly progressive hearing loss, which leads to permanent total deafness.

New research released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that people are receiving important health information from prime-time television shows. Although the study looked at the storyline of another medical drama and not "House, M.D.," the important finding is that 45.6 percent of the audience surveyed remembered the key medical information six weeks later.

So what is the weekly message to the millions of viewers of "House, M.D." on the safety of an addiction to Vicodin?

In watching Dr. House on TV, one gets the impression that his addiction has no consequences other than affecting his medical judgment. I know "House, M.D." is a drama, but the real-life drama surrounding an addiction to Vicodin can be life-altering.

It is bad enough that the show depicts a doctor treating patients while addicted to a serious narcotic, but Vicodin is ototoxic, which means, if abused, it can cause irreversible and total hearing loss.