Hearing Loss Can be Triggered by These Prevalent Medications

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

When you start on a course of medication, it’s natural to want to be educated about any potential side effects. Can it trigger digestive issues? Will it dehydrate you? Cause sleeplessness? You might not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, like hearing loss. Lots of different medications are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

So can this issue be triggered by a lot of medications? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic reaction, but just how many is still somewhat uncertain. So which drugs do you personally need to know about?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

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

  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that receives sound and translates it into an electrical signal that the brain can understand. When the cochlea is compromised, you will start to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that produces fluid known as endolymph. Both balance and hearing are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and situated right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. Its main function is to manage balance. When a medication produces an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the sensation that the room is spinning.

What is the threat level for each drug?

The checklist of medications that can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss might surprise you. Ototoxic medications are pretty common and the majority of people have several of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list as well. The hearing problems due to these drugs are typically reversible when you quit using them.

Next on the list of common ototoxic medications would be certain antibiotics. Some of these may be familiar:

  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin

There are also several other compounds that can cause tinnitus

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

  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping

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

  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water

You might not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can cause ringing in your ears. Luckily, 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:

  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline

Typically, the tinnitus will clear when you stop using the medication but always seek advice from your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

There are very distinct symptoms with an ototoxic reaction

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

Be on guard for:

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

Make sure you ask your doctor about any possible 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, contact us today to schedule a hearing test to establish a baseline of your hearing health.


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.