Audiology & Hearing Care of SWFL - Bonita Springs, FL

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 taking it. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Cause insomnia? There may also be a more serious potential side effect that you might not be aware of – hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical term professionals have given this condition and there are lots of drugs that are known to cause it.

So can this problem be triggered by a lot of drugs? Well, there are numerous medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic response, but exactly how many is still somewhat uncertain. So which medications do you personally need to know about?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

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

  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and sitting right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. Its principal function is to manage balance. Vestibulotoxicity drugs can cause you to become dizzy or feel as if 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 understand. Damage to the cochlea affects the range of sound you can hear, typically starting with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.
  • The stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both balance and hearing are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.

What is the threat level for each drug?

You might be surprised by the list of drugs that can cause an ototoxic response. Many of them you most 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 such as:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list too. The hearing problems due to these drugs are generally correctable when you quit taking them.

Antibiotics are a close second for prevalent ototoxic drugs. You might have heard of some of these:

  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also a number of other compounds that can induce tinnitus

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

  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • Popping

Certain diuretics will also cause tinnitus, here are a few of the main offenders:

  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine

You might not be aware that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should recede. The following medications are prescribed to treat tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone

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

There are very distinct symptoms with an ototoxic reaction

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

Here are some things to watch out for:

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

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

Also, schedule a hearing test with us, a baseline hearing test is a practical step 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.