Prevalent Medications That Can Trigger Hearing Loss

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s natural to want to know about the side effects of a medication when you start taking it. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Cause insomnia? There could also be a more severe possible side effect that you might not be aware of – hearing loss. Many different medications are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

Specifically how many medications are there that can lead to this issue? The answer is unclear, but there are plenty that are recognized to cause ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How can a medication wreak havoc on your hearing after you swallow it? There are three different places certain drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and situated right in the middle is the vestibule of the ear. Its primary function is to regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to get dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: Located in the cochlea, the stria vascularis generates endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant effect on both balance and hearing.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that receives sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can comprehend. Damage to the cochlea affects the range of sound you can hear, usually starting with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

The checklist of drugs that can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Ototoxic medications are rather common and most people have a few of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

You can add salicylates to the list, which is aspirin. When you quit taking these drugs, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by a number of common compounds

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

  • Ringing
  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound

Certain diuretics will also trigger tinnitus, here are a few of the main offenders:

  • Nicotine
  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine
  • Tonic water

You might not be aware 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 recede. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline

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

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

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

Also, contact us 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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