Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s normal to want to know about the side effects of a medication when you start using it. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it cause your mouth to dry out? Cause insomnia? There could also be a more severe possible 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 medications? The answer is not clear, but there are plenty that are recognized to trigger ototoxic symptoms. So which drugs do you personally need to be aware of?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How is it possible for your hearing to be impacted by medication? There are three different places certain drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: Situated 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 sitting right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. Its main function is to manage balance. When a medication triggers an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the sensation that the room is spinning.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that receives sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can understand. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, usually starting with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

You may be surprised by the list of drugs that can result in an ototoxic reaction. Several of them you probably have in your medicine cabinet even now, and it’s likely that you take them before you go to bed or when you’re dealing with a headache.

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 using these medications, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin

Tinnitus can also be induced by a number of common compounds

Hearing loss can be the result of some medications and others may cause tinnitus. If you hear phantom sounds, that could be tinnitus and it normally shows up as:

  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping
  • Thumping

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

  • Caffeine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine

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. The good news is it should improve once the drug is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone

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

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Here are a few things to watch out for:

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

Make sure you consult 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, contact us today to set up a hearing test to establish a baseline of your hearing health.

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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.