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 informed about any possible side effects. Can it upset your stomach? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you sleepy? There could also be a more severe potential side effect that you may not think of – hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical term professionals have given this condition and there are many drugs that are known to cause it.

Exactly how many drugs are there that can cause this problem? Well, there are numerous medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic response, but just how many is still rather uncertain. So, which ones do you need to pay attention to and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a medication wreak havoc on your hearing after you take it? There are three distinct places certain drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: Found in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both hearing and balance are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and situated right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. Its principal function is to regulate balance. When a medication causes an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the sensation that the room is spinning.
  • 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. Damage to the cochlea affects the range of sound you can hear, typically starting with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.

What is the threat level for each drug?

You might be surprised by the list of drugs that can cause an ototoxic response. Ototoxic medications are rather common and most people have a few of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

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

Antibiotics come in as a close second for well-known ototoxic drugs. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can cause tinnitus

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

  • Ringing
  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound

Various diuretics can also result in tinnitus, including brand names Lasix, Bumex, and Diamox but the primary offenders in this category are things like:

  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

You might not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. Here’s the good news, it should improve after the drug is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline

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

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be sure you ask your doctor about any possible side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. Contact your doctor right away if you detect any tinnitus symptoms that may have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

Also, schedule a hearing examination with us, a baseline hearing test is a proactive measure that can help you preserve good hearing health throughout your life.

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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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