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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 informed about any potential side effects. Can it upset your stomach? Will it cause your mouth to dry out? Make you drowsy? There may also be a more serious possible side effect that you may not think of – hearing loss. Lots of different drugs are known to cause this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

So can this issue be caused by a lot of drugs? The answer is not clear, but there are plenty that are recognized to cause ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

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

  • The stria vascularis: Located in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both balance and hearing are affected 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. It helps manage balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to get dizzy or feel as if 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 start to lose some frequencies of sound, particularly in the high-frequency range.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

The checklist of drugs that can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss might surprise you. Ototoxic medications are rather common and the majority of people have several of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list too. When you quit using these medications, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

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

  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin

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

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

  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Ringing

Certain diuretics will also cause tinnitus, here are some of the primary offenders:

  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water

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

  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine

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

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

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

Here are some things to watch out for:

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

Be sure you ask your doctor about any possible side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest that you contact your doctor to talk about your symptoms, they will know the best course of action.

Also, schedule a hearing test with us, a baseline hearing test is a proactive 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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