Prevalent Medications That Can Trigger 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 possible side effects. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Make you drowsy? There could also be a more serious potential side effect that you may not be aware of – hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical name 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 lead to this issue? Well, there are numerous medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic response, but exactly how many is still somewhat uncertain. So which drugs do you personally need to be aware of?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a medication cause problems with your ears after you take it? Your hearing can be damaged by medication in three distinct places:

  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and sitting right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. Its principal function is to regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity drugs can cause you to get dizzy or feel as if the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that generates fluid called endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial effect on both hearing and balance.
  • 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. When the cochlea is damaged, you will start to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.

Do different drugs have different threat levels?

You might be surprised by the list of drugs that can cause an ototoxic reaction. Ototoxic medications are fairly common and the majority of 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 killers including:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list too. The hearing problems caused by these drugs are generally correctable when you quit using them.

Antibiotics come in as a close second for prevalent ototoxic drugs. Some of these may be familiar:

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by a number of common compounds

Some drugs might 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:

  • Ringing
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping

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

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • 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. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should go away. The following drugs are prescribed to treat tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline

After you stop using the medication, the symptoms should go away, and your doctor will be there to help you with anything you may need to know.

Ototoxicity has specific symptoms

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

Here are some things to check out for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always consulting your physician about the possible side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest that you contact your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, schedule a hearing exam with us, a baseline hearing test is a practical 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.