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 trigger digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Make you sleepy? You may not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, such as hearing loss. Many different drugs are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

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

What to know about ototoxicity

How can a pill wreak havoc on your hearing after you swallow it? Your hearing can be harmed by medication in three different 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. Its main function is to 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 stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis generates endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The cochlea: The cochlea is part of the inner ear, shaped like a seashell, that transforms sound waves into electrical signals which your brain translates into the sense of sound. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, usually beginning with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

The checklist of medications which can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Several of them you probably 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.

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 quit using these drugs, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by several common compounds

Hearing loss can be the result of some drugs and others may trigger tinnitus. Here are some ways tinnitus may present:

  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound

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

  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water

Every single time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are exposing your body to something that may make your ears ring. The good news is it should clear up once the drug is out of your system. The following drugs are prescribed to manage tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

Normally, the tinnitus will end when you stop using the medication but always seek advice from your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Make sure you consult your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest immediately contacting your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, give us a call today to set up a hearing test 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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