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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 informed about any potential side effects. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Make you sleepy? There might also be a more severe potential side effect that you might not be aware of – hearing loss. Lots of different medications are known to cause this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

Exactly how many drugs are there that can cause this issue? Well, there are numerous medications known to trigger an ototoxic response, but just how many is still somewhat uncertain. So which medications do you personally need to know about?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a medication wreak havoc on your ears after you take it? Your hearing can be damaged by medication in three distinct places:

  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the part of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. It helps manage balance. When a medication triggers an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the feeling that the room is spinning.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped component of the inner ear that receives 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, especially in the high-frequency range.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that produces fluid known as endolymph. Both hearing and balance are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

You might be surprised by the list of medications that can result in an ototoxic response. Several 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 relievers including:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

You can add salicylates to the list, better known as aspirin. When you quit taking these medications, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

Antibiotics come in as a close second for prevalent ototoxic drugs. You might have heard of some of these:

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

Tinnitus can also be induced by several common compounds

Hearing loss can be the outcome of some medications and others may trigger tinnitus. If you hear phantom sounds, that may be tinnitus and it usually shows up as:

  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping
  • Thumping

Some diuretics can also cause tinnitus, including brand names Lasix, Bumex, and Diamox but the primary offenders in this category are things like:

  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

Every single time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are subjecting your body to something that may make your ears ring. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should go away. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

Usually, the tinnitus will end when you quit taking the medication but always talk to your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be certain that you consult your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest that you contact your doctor to talk about your symptoms, they will know the best course of action.

Also, schedule a hearing examination with us, a baseline hearing test is a proactive step that can help you maintain good hearing health throughout your life.

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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.