Hearing Loss Can be Triggered by These Common Medications

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 start using it. Can it cause digestive issues? Will it cause your mouth to dry out? Cause sleeplessness? You may not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, such as hearing loss. Many different drugs are known to cause this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

So can this problem be triggered by a lot of medications? The answer is not clear, but there are plenty that are recognized to trigger ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

What to know about ototoxicity

How can a medication cause problems with your hearing after you swallow it? There are three different places certain drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the portion of the cochlea that generates fluid known as endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear that sits in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its main function is to regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity drugs can cause you to become dizzy or feel as if the room is spinning.
  • 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.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

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

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also called salicylates, is on this list as well. The hearing problems due to these drugs are generally correctable when you stop taking them.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin

Tinnitus can also be induced by a number of common compounds

Some medications may cause tinnitus and others could result in loss of hearing. Here are some ways tinnitus might present:

  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • 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:

  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

You may not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. The good news is it should clear up once the chemical is out of your system. The following medications are prescribed to manage tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

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

There are very specific symptoms with an ototoxic response

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

Here are some things to check out for:

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

Be sure you consult your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. Contact your doctor right away if you detect any tinnitus symptoms that may have been caused by an ototoxic response.

Also, give us a call today to set up a hearing test 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.