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Popular Pain Relief Pills Lead to Hearing Loss in Women

Update Date: Sep 13, 2012 08:15 AM EDT

Popular pain relief pills may lead to eventual hearing loss in women, according to a study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital.  

The research reveals that women who took Ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week had an increased risk of hearing loss. The more often a woman took either of these medications, the higher her risk for hearing loss was shown to be.

During a women's menstrual period, she is likely to take about four a day for a full week, which makes these finding quite worrisome. What's more, the report also notes that the risk of hearing loss was more prevalent in women younger than 50-years-old, the average age when menopause begins. 

"Possible mechanisms might be that NSAIDs [ the chemical compound of Ibuprofen] may reduce blood flow to the cochlea -- the hearing organ -- and impair its function [while] Acetaminophen may deplete factors that protect the cochlea from damage," said first study author Sharon G. Curhan, MD, BWH Channing Division of Network Medicine, as quoted from a report by Brigham and Women's Hospital.

 The findings were compounded of data from 62,261 women, ages 31 to 48, who were followed for 14 years, from 1995 to 2009, and 1012 of whom self-reported to have acqired light, moderate to severe loss of hearing since their young adulthood.

Results showed that women who were shown to use ibuprofen 2 to 3 days a week at a time had a 13 percent higher risk of hearing loss, than women who were tested to only use the drug once per week. Women who used the medication 4 to 5 days per week had a 21 percent increased risk. For those who used ibuprofen six or more days per week, the risk rose to 24 percent.

The results were similar for women who used acetaminophen. Aspirin use however proved to have no such risks.

"If individuals find a need to take these types of medications regularly, they should consult with their health care professional to discuss the risks and benefits and to explore other possible alternatives," said Curhan.

The Hearing Health Foundation Reports that as many as 1 in 5 Americans suffer from hearing loss in at least one ear.

According to the World Health Organization, in high income and industrialized nations, hearing loss stands as the sixth most common ailment.  Over 50 percent of American adults suffer from high-frequency hearing loss by the time they reach 60 years old; one-third of women in their 50s and nearly two-thirds in their 60s have experienced hearing loss. 

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