A new study says it could have side effects for women.

Ibuprofen tablets.
| Credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

If you take over-the-counter painkillers, you may want to listen up. That temporary pain relief you're after comes with a high price.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital report that long-term regular use of analgesic NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) and acetaminophen is linked to higher risk of hearing loss among women.

In the 55,000 women tested, they found that those who reported using an NSAID like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for more than six years showed 9% to 10% higher risk of having hearing loss more than a decade later. Those who used aspirin, however, did not experience hearing problems.


"I worry that people think NSAIDs and acetaminophen are completely safe, and that they don't need to think about their potential side effects," lead researcher Dr. Gary Curhan told TIME. "But particularly for people who are taking them for chronic pain, I try to encourage them to look at why they are having the pain, not what they can take to try to treat the pain."

Just because some medicines are considered relatively harmless and are available over-the-counter does not mean that they are suitable for prolonged use, Curhan warns.

"One of the messages we try to make people aware of is that even though these drugs are over-the-counter, and they don't need a prescription and are safe for short term use, as far as people taking them long term, there are lots of considerations that people don't always take into account," he says.