Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

When you start on a course of medication, it’s natural to want to be educated about any potential side effects. Can it trigger digestive issues? Will it cause your mouth to dry out? Cause sleeplessness? You may not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, including hearing loss. Lots of different drugs are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

So can this problem be triggered by a lot of drugs? The answer is unclear, but there are lots that are known to cause ototoxic symptoms. So which drugs do you personally need to know about?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

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

  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. It helps manage balance. When a medication causes an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the sensation that the room is spinning.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped component of the inner ear that takes sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can understand. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, usually beginning with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.
  • The stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis makes endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both balance and hearing are affected by too much or too little endolymph.

What is the risk level for each drug?

You may be surprised by the list of drugs that can result in an ototoxic reaction. Several of them you likely have in your medicine cabinet even now, and chances are you take them before you go to bed or when you’re dealing with a headache.

At the top of the list of ototoxic medications are over-the-counter pain killers including:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

You can add salicylates to the list, better known as aspirin. The hearing issues caused by these drugs are typically correctable when you quit taking them.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

There are also a number of other compounds that can trigger tinnitus

Some medications may cause tinnitus and others could lead to loss of hearing. Here are a few ways tinnitus might present:

  • Popping
  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping

Specific diuretics will also cause tinnitus, here are a few of the main offenders:

  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

You may not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. The good news is it should clear up once the drug is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone

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

There are very specific symptoms with an ototoxic response

The signs or symptoms of tinnitus differ depending on your hearing health and which medication you get.

Here are a few things to watch out for:

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

Be sure you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest that you contact your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, give us a call 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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