File under depressing but true: As you we age, many of us will likely experience at least some level of irreversible hearing loss. And short of keeping the volume on your iPod turned down and avoiding earwax buildup, most experts agreed that there's not much we can do about itÃ¢â‚¬”until now. Turns out, steering clear of certain over-the-counter pain medications could make a difference to the health of your ears.
Say what? Strange as it might sound, pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss in women, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Advanced Epidemiology. Researchers followed over 60,000 women for fourteen years and tracked the frequency of their pain reliever use along with self-reported hearing loss.
The results were dramatic: Nearly a quarter of women who took ibuprofen six or more days a week reported decreases in hearing. And women who only took ibuprofen two or three days a week were 13% more likely to experience hearing loss.Ã‚Â Acetaminophen users fared better, but only slightly: 21% of women who took acetaminophen six or more days a week experienced loss, along with 11% of women who took the painkiller a few days a week.
How Pain Relievers Lead to Hearing Loss Previous research has already demonstrated a link between pain relief medications and hearing loss in men, so researchers werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t surprised to find that the same goes for women. Ã¢â‚¬Å“NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the cochlea [the part of the inner ear that helps you hear], which could impair its function,Ã¢â‚¬Â says lead study author Sharon G. Curhan, MD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital Channing Division of Network Medicine. Acetaminophen could also deplete structures in the ear that protect the cochlea, Curhan says. (What? You are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss? Learn how you can improve your senses.)
Does that mean youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doomed to endure a life filled with headaches and sore muscles? Not necessarily. Hearing loss wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t associated with use of other NSAIDS like naproxen, or with aspirin use, though researchers arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly sure why. And they arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ready to recommend that women swear off taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen completely. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We want people to know that these are medications with potential side effects,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Curhan. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you need to take them regularly, consult with a health care professional to discuss the risks and benefits,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says.
Still wary? Check out Natural Alternatives To The Top 10 Most Prescribed Drugs.
photo: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Thinkstock More from WH:
How to Choose a Painkiller
The Science Behind Pain
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