Common Medications That Cause Hearing Loss

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s normal to want to know about the side effects of a medication when you begin using it. Can it give you a stomach ache? Will it cause your mouth to dry out? Cause sleeplessness? You might not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, including hearing loss. Many different medications are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

Specifically how many drugs are there that can cause this issue? Well, there are a number of medications known to cause an ototoxic response, but just how many is still rather uncertain. So, which ones do you need to pay attention to and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How is it possible for your hearing to be impacted by medication? There are three distinct places specific drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped component of the inner ear that receives sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can understand. When the cochlea is damaged, you will begin to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.
  • The stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis generates endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both hearing and balance are affected by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. It helps manage balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to get dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

The checklist of medications that can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss might surprise you. Ototoxic medications are rather common and most people 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, which is aspirin. The hearing issues due to these drugs are typically correctable when you stop using them.

Antibiotics are a close second for well-known ototoxic drugs. You might have heard of some of these:

  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin

There are also several other compounds that can cause tinnitus

Hearing loss can be the outcome of some drugs and others might trigger tinnitus. If you hear phantom noises, that may be tinnitus and it typically shows up as:

  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • Ringing

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

  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine

Each and every time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are subjecting your body to something that may make your ears ring. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should go away. The following drugs are prescribed to manage tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline

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

There are very distinct symptoms with an ototoxic reaction

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

Here are some things to watch out for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always asking your physician about the possible side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we recommend immediately contacting your doctor to talk about 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.


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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