Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

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

So can this issue be triggered by a lot of drugs? Well, there are numerous medications recognized to cause an ototoxic response, but exactly how many is still somewhat unclear. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a medication damage your hearing after you take it? Your hearing can be harmed by medication in three different places:

  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the portion of the cochlea that generates fluid known as endolymph. Both balance and hearing 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 primary function is to 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 cochlea: The cochlea is part of the inner ear, shaped like a seashell, that transforms sound waves into electrical signals which your brain translates into the sense of sound. When the cochlea is compromised, you will begin to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.

What is the risk level for each drug?

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

Over-the-counter pain medications including the following top the list:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

You can add salicylates to the list, which is aspirin. When you stop taking these medications, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can cause tinnitus

Some medications may cause tinnitus and others could lead to loss of hearing. Here are some ways tinnitus may present:

  • Ringing
  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping

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

  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine

You might not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can cause ringing in your ears. The good news is it should clear up after the chemical is out of your system. The following drugs are prescribed to manage tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline

Usually, the tinnitus will clear when you quit using the medication but always consult your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

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:

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

Be sure you consult your doctor about any 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 test with us, a baseline hearing test is a practical measure that can help you maintain 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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