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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 start using it. Can it give you a stomach ache? Will it dehydrate you? Make you drowsy? You might not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, such as hearing loss. Lots of different drugs are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

Exactly how many drugs are there that can lead to this issue? The answer is uncertain, but there are lots that are known to cause ototoxic symptoms. So which drugs do you personally need to be aware of?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How can a medication wreak havoc on your hearing after you swallow it? There are three different places specific drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The cochlea: The cochlea is part of the inner ear, shaped like a seashell, that converts sound waves into electrical signals which your brain translates into the sense of sound. 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 situated in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. Its primary function is to manage balance. When a medication causes an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the feeling that the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that generates fluid known as endolymph. Both balance and hearing are affected by too much or too little endolymph.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

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

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

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

Antibiotics are a close second for prevalent ototoxic medications. Some of these may be familiar:

  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin

There are also several other compounds that can trigger tinnitus

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

  • Ringing
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping

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

  • Tonic water
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana

Every time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are subjecting your body to something that might make your ears ring. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should recede. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

After you stop using the medication, the symptoms should improve, and your doctor will be there to help you with whatever you may need to know.

There are very specific symptoms with an ototoxic reaction

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

Be on guard for:

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

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 might have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

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