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Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s natural to want to know about the side effects of a medication when you begin using it. Can it give you a stomach ache? Will it cause dry mouth? Cause sleeplessness? You might not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, such as hearing loss. Many different medications 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 not clear, but there are plenty that are known to cause ototoxic symptoms. So which drugs do you personally need to be aware of?

What to know about ototoxicity

How can a pill damage your ears after you swallow it? There are three distinct places specific drugs can damage your hearing:

  • 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 comprehend. When the cochlea is compromised, you will start to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. It helps manage balance. When a medication causes an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the feeling that the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that produces fluid known as endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant effect on both hearing and balance.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

The checklist of medications that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss might surprise you. Several of them you probably have in your medicine cabinet even now, and it’s likely that 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 relievers including:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

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

Antibiotics are a close second for common ototoxic drugs. Some of these may be familiar:

  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by several common compounds

Hearing loss can be the result of some drugs and others might trigger tinnitus. If you hear phantom noises, that may be tinnitus and it normally shows up as:

  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping
  • Ringing

Certain diuretics will also trigger tinnitus, here are a few of the primary offenders:

  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water
  • Nicotine

Every time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are subjecting your body to something that could make your ears ring. Luckily, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should recede. The following drugs are prescribed to treat tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone

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

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always asking your doctor about the potential 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, 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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