Prevalent Medications That Cause Hearing Loss

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s normal to want to learn about the side effects of a medication when you begin using it. Can it upset your stomach? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you sleepy? There could also be a more serious potential side effect that you may not be aware of – hearing loss. Many different medications are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

Exactly how many medications are there that can cause this problem? Well, there are numerous medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic reaction, but just how many is still rather unclear. So, which ones should you watch out for and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

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

  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part 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 begin to lose some frequencies of sound, particularly in the high-frequency range.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the part of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. It helps regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to become dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the portion of the cochlea that produces fluid known as endolymph. Both hearing and balance are affected by too much or too little endolymph.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

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

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list as well. When you quit using these medications, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

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

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also several other compounds that can trigger tinnitus

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

  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound

Various 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
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine

Every single time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are exposing your body to something that might make your ears ring. Here’s the good news, it should improve once the drug is out of your system. The following drugs are prescribed to treat tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

Once 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 based on your ear health and which medication you get.

Here are some things to check out for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always asking your doctor about the potential side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we recommend immediately contacting your doctor to talk about your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

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