Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

When you begin on a course of medication, it’s natural to want to be educated about any possible side effects. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Cause insomnia? There might also be a more serious possible side effect that you may not be aware of – hearing loss. Many different medications are known to cause this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

Exactly how many medications are there that can cause this problem? The answer is uncertain, but there are plenty that are recognized to cause ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones do you need to watch out for and why?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How is it possible for your hearing to be impacted by medication? There are three different places certain drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and situated right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. It helps manage balance. When a medication produces an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the sensation that the room is spinning.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that takes sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can understand. When the cochlea is damaged, you will start to lose some frequencies of sound, particularly in the high-frequency range.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the portion of the cochlea that generates fluid called endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant impact on both balance and hearing.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

The checklist of medications which can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Many of them you likely have in your medicine cabinet even now, and it’s likely that you take them before you go to bed or when you have a headache.

Topping the list of ototoxic medications are over-the-counter pain killers such as:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list too. When you stop using these medications, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

Next on the list of common ototoxic medications would be certain antibiotics. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can induce tinnitus

Hearing loss can be the result of some drugs and others might cause tinnitus. Here are a few ways tinnitus may present:

  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Ringing

Specific diuretics will also trigger tinnitus, here are some of the main offenders:

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana

You may not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can cause ringing in your ears. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should recede. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline

Once you discontinue the medication, the symptoms should improve, and your doctor will be there to help you with anything you may need to know.

There are very specific symptoms with an ototoxic response

Depending on what specific medications you’re using and your hearing health, your particular symptoms will vary.

Be on guard for:

  • Tinnitus
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty walking
  • Hearing loss on one or both sides
  • Poor balance
  • Vomiting

Keep yourself informed by always asking your physician about the possible side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest immediately contacting your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know the best course of action.

Also, contact us today to schedule a hearing exam to establish a baseline of your hearing health.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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