Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

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 educated about any possible side effects. Can it upset your stomach? Will it dehydrate you? Cause insomnia? There could also be a more severe possible side effect that you may not be aware of – hearing loss. Many different drugs are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

So can this problem be triggered by a lot of drugs? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to cause an ototoxic response, but exactly how many is still somewhat unclear. So which drugs do you personally need to know about?

What to know about ototoxicity

How can a medication damage your hearing after you take it? There are three different places certain drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped component of the inner ear that takes sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can comprehend. Damage to the cochlea affects the range of sound you can hear, typically beginning with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the portion 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 part of the ear that sits in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. Its principal function is to regulate balance. When a medication produces an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the sensation that the room is spinning.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

You might be surprised by the list of medications that can cause an ototoxic response. Ototoxic medications are rather common and the majority of individuals have several of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

You can add salicylates to the list, better known as aspirin. When you quit taking these medications, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

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

  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can trigger tinnitus

Hearing loss can be the result of some medications and others might trigger tinnitus. If you hear phantom noises, that might be tinnitus and it usually shows up as:

  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Ringing

Various diuretics can also cause tinnitus, including brand names Lasix, Bumex, and Diamox but the primary offenders in this category are things like:

  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water

Every single time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are subjecting your body to something that could make your ears ring. Here’s the good news, it should clear up once the drug is out of your system. The following drugs are prescribed to treat tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

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

There are very distinct symptoms with an ototoxic response

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

Here are some things to check out for:

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

Be 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 experience any tinnitus symptoms that might have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

Also, schedule a hearing examination 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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