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Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

When you start on a course of medication, it’s normal to want to be informed about any potential side effects. Can it trigger digestive problems? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you sleepy? There could also be a more serious possible side effect that you may not think 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.

Specifically how many medications are there that can lead to this problem? Well, there are a number of medications known to cause an ototoxic response, but just how many is still rather uncertain. So which medications do you personally need to be aware of?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a pill cause problems with your hearing after you swallow it? There are three different places specific drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that generates fluid known as endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial effect on both hearing and balance.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its primary function is to regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity drugs can cause you to get dizzy or feel as if 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 comprehend. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, usually beginning with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

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

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

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

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can cause tinnitus

Some medications might cause tinnitus and others could lead to loss of hearing. If you hear phantom sounds, that could be tinnitus and it typically shows up as:

  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Ringing
  • Popping

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

  • Caffeine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine

You might not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. The good news is it should improve once the chemical is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine

After you discontinue 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 distinct symptoms with an ototoxic reaction

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

Be on guard for:

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

Make sure you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we recommend that you contact your doctor to talk about your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

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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