Hearcare  INC., & Associates - Sherman & Gainesville, TX

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s natural to want to understand the side effects of a medication when you begin taking it. Can it trigger digestive issues? Will it cause dehydration? Cause insomnia? You might not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, such as hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical name professionals have given this condition and there are many drugs that are known to cause it.

Exactly how many drugs are there that can cause this issue? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic reaction, but exactly how many is still rather unclear. So, which ones should you watch out for and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a pill cause problems with your ears after you swallow it? Your hearing can be damaged by medication in three different places:

  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the part of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its main function is to regulate balance. When a medication causes an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the sensation that the room is spinning.
  • 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 impact on both hearing and balance.
  • 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. When the cochlea is damaged, you will begin to lose some frequencies of sound, particularly in the high-frequency range.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

You might be surprised by the list of medications that can result in an ototoxic reaction. Several of them you most likely have in your medicine cabinet even now, and chances are you take them before you go to bed or when you have a headache.

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

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

Next on the list of common ototoxic medications would be specific antibiotics. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin

Tinnitus can also be induced by a number of common compounds

Hearing loss can be the result of some drugs and others may cause tinnitus. Here are a few ways tinnitus might present:

  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound

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

  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine

Each and every 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 go away. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

Once 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 specific symptoms with an ototoxic response

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

Here are a few things to check out for:

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

Be sure you consult your doctor about any possible side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest that you contact your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, give us a call today to set up a hearing exam 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.
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