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 informed about any potential side effects. Can it cause digestive issues? Will it cause dehydration? Cause insomnia? There might also be a more severe possible side effect that you may not be aware of – hearing loss. Lots of different medications are known to cause this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

Exactly how many medications are there that can cause this issue? The answer is not clear, but there are lots that are recognized to trigger ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

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

  • The stria vascularis: Found in the cochlea, the stria vascularis generates endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both balance and hearing are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the part of the ear situated 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 sense of sound. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, typically beginning with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.

What is the risk level for each drug?

The checklist of medications which can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Ototoxic medications are rather common and the majority of 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

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

Antibiotics are a close second for prevalent ototoxic drugs. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by several common compounds

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

  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Ringing
  • Popping

Some diuretics can also cause tinnitus, including brand names Lasix, Bumex, and Diamox but the primary offenders in this category are things like:

  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine

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. Luckily, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should recede. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

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

There are very specific symptoms with an ototoxic response

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be certain that you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. Get in touch with your doctor right away if you detect any tinnitus symptoms that may have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

Also, call us 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.