Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

When you start on a course of medication, it’s normal to want to be educated about any possible side effects. Can it give you a stomach ache? Will it cause dehydration? Cause insomnia? There might also be a more serious potential side effect that you may not think of – hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical name professionals have given this condition and there are lots of drugs that are known to cause it.

Specifically how many medications are there that can result in this problem? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to cause an ototoxic reaction, but just how many is still somewhat uncertain. So which drugs do you personally need to know about?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How can a medication cause problems with your ears after you take it? Your hearing can be damaged by medication in three distinct places:

  • 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 significant impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped component of the inner ear that receives sound and translates it into an electrical signal that the brain can understand. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, typically beginning with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the part of the ear that sits in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. It helps regulate balance. When a medication triggers an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the sensation that the room is spinning.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

You might be surprised by the list of drugs that can cause 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.

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

You can add salicylates to the list, which is aspirin. When you stop using these drugs, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

Antibiotics are a close second for well-known ototoxic drugs. Some of these might be familiar:

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

Tinnitus can also be induced by several common compounds

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

  • Ringing
  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound

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

  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water

Each and 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. Here’s the good news, it should improve once the chemical is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline

After you discontinue the medication, the symptoms should go away, and your doctor will be there to help you with anything you may need to know.

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Make sure you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. Get in touch with your doctor right away if you experience any tinnitus symptoms that may have been caused by an ototoxic response.

Also, call us 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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