There are many drug and medication ads today with seemingly endless lists of unfavorable side effects. But were you aware that there are a number of medicines that can be harmful to your hearing? These types of medications do exist and they are known as ototoxic. Ototoxic medications are drugs, whether over-the-counter (OTC) or doctor-prescribed, which are harmful to the ears. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association states that there are over 200 medications known to be ototoxic. Quite a few of these ototoxic medications are used, and you’ve probably heard their names and may even be taking them.

  • Loop Diuretics – Loop diuretics are typically used in the treatment of particular kidney conditions, heart failure, and high blood pressure. Hearing loss and tinnitus are possible side effects caused by loop diuretics, but have a tendency to be mild and are oftentimes not noticed by patients.
  • Salicylates – Commonplace pain relievers such as aspirin or aspirin-containing medications contain Salicylates. In doses of eight or more tablets per day, salicylates are known to cause hearing loss and tinnitus. The good news is that when medications containing salicylates are discontinued, the ototoxic side effects will subside on their own.
  • NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often abbreviated NSAIDs, can result in temporary hearing loss and a ringing in the ears in large quantities.Ibuprofen and naproxen are two widely used NSAIDs.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs – Irreversible ear damage has been observed in many cancer treatment medications, such as cisplatin, bleomycin, carboplatin and cyclophosphamide. If you have any changes in your hearing or balance while taking your chemotherapy drugs, talk to your physician.
  • Aminoglycoside Antibiotics – Streptomycin, kanamycin, gentamicin, amikacin and neomycin are just some of the types of aminoglycoside antibiotics prescribed by doctors to treat bacterial infections. Complications come up when these medications produce free radicals, which do damage to the inner ear. Expectant mothers should be aware of possible congenital deafness from taking aminoglycosides during pregnancy.

If you currently use any of these ototoxic medications, never stop taking your drugs without consulting your physician. To safeguard your hearing health, talk to your doctor for alternatives to known ototoxic medications; if they cannot be avoided, be sure you are getting the appropriate dose precisely as directed.