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 natural to want to be educated about any potential side effects. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it cause dehydration? Make you sleepy? There might also be a more severe possible side effect that you may not be aware of – hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical term professionals have given this condition and there are lots of drugs that are known to cause it.

Specifically how many drugs are there that can cause this issue? The answer is uncertain, but there are lots that are recognized to trigger ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

What to know about ototoxicity

How is it possible for your hearing to be impacted by medication? Your hearing can be damaged by medication in three distinct places:

  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that produces fluid known as endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant impact on both balance and hearing.
  • The cochlea: The cochlea is part of the inner ear, shaped like a seashell, that transforms sound waves into electrical signals which your brain translates into the perception of sound. Damage to the cochlea affects the range of sound you can hear, typically starting with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.
  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and sitting right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. It helps manage balance. When a medication produces an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the feeling that the room is spinning.

What is the risk level for each drug?

The checklist of drugs which can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Ototoxic medications are fairly common and most individuals have a few of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

At the top of the list of ototoxic medications are over-the-counter pain relievers such as:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

You can add salicylates to the list, which is aspirin. The hearing issues caused by these drugs are normally reversible when you stop using them.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can induce tinnitus

Some medications may cause tinnitus and others could result in loss of hearing. If you hear phantom sounds, that could be tinnitus and it normally shows up as:

  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping
  • Ringing
  • Thumping

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

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana

Each and every time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are exposing your body to something that could make your ears ring. The good news is it should improve once the drug is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline

Normally, the tinnitus will end when you quit using the medication but always seek advice from your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be certain that you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any tinnitus symptoms that might have been caused by an ototoxic response.

Also, give us a call today to schedule 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.