Prevalent Medications That Cause Hearing Loss

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 informed about any potential side effects. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you sleepy? You may not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, including hearing loss. Lots of different drugs are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

So can this issue be caused by a lot of drugs? Well, there are a number of medications known to trigger an ototoxic response, but just how many is still rather unclear. So, which ones do you need to pay attention to and why?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How can a pill wreak havoc on your hearing after you swallow it? There are three different places specific drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis makes endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both hearing and balance are affected by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped component 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 start to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its main function is to manage balance. When a medication triggers an ototoxic response to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the sensation that the room is spinning.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

The checklist of medications that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Many of them you 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 medication like the following top the list:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list as well. The hearing problems caused by these drugs are normally reversible when you quit taking them.

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by a number of common compounds

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

  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • 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
  • Tonic water
  • Nicotine
  • Marijuana

Every single time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are exposing your body to something that could make your ears ring. Here’s the good news, it should clear up after the chemical is out of your system. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

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.

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

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

Also, schedule a hearing examination with us, a baseline hearing test is a proactive measure that can help you maintain good hearing health throughout your life.


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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