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Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s normal to want to learn about the side effects of a medication when you start using it. Can it cause digestive issues? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you drowsy? You may not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, such as 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 issue be triggered by a lot of medications? 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 is it possible for your hearing to be affected by medication? Your hearing can be damaged by medication in three distinct places:

  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that takes sound and translates it into an electrical signal that the brain can comprehend. When the cochlea is damaged, you will begin to lose some frequencies of sound, particularly in the high-frequency range.
  • The stria vascularis: Found in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both balance and hearing are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear that sits in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. Its main function is to manage balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to become dizzy or feel as if the room is spinning.

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 pretty common and the majority of individuals have a few of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Aspirin, also called salicylates, is on this list too. When you quit taking these drugs, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by several common compounds

Some drugs may cause tinnitus and others could result in loss of hearing. Here are a few ways tinnitus may present:

  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound

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

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water

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

  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone

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

There are very specific symptoms with an ototoxic response

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

Be on guard for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always asking your physician about the possible side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. Get in touch with your doctor right away if you detect any tinnitus symptoms that might have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

Also, call us today to schedule a hearing test to establish a baseline of your hearing health.

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References
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7985331

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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