Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

Medications that cause hearing loss and tinnitus.

When you start to use a new medication, it’s normal to look at the possible side effects. Can you expect to feel Nauseous or to have a dry mouth? What may not occur to you is that certain medications have a more extreme side effect – they can potentially cause loss of hearing. Medical experts call this complication ototoxicity. Ear poisoning is what ototoxicity breaks down to.

Exactly how many drugs that can lead to this problem is unclear, but there are at least 130 that are known to be ototoxic. Which ones should you look out for and why?

A Little About Ototoxicity

How does a pill reap havoc on your ears after you swallow it? There are three places these drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The cochlea – That’s the seashell-shaped element of the inner ear that takes sound and converts it into an electrical signal the brain can understand. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, typically starting with high frequencies then escalating to include lower ones.
  • The stria vascularis – Located in the cochlea, the stria vascularis creates endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The vestibule of the ear – This is the area that sits in the center of the labyrinth that comprises the cochlea. It helps manage balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to get dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.

Tinnitus is caused by some drugs while others cause hearing loss. If you hear phantom sounds, that might be tinnitus and it normally shows up as:

  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • A windy sound
  • Popping

When you stop the medication, the tinnitus usually stops. Unfortunately, some of these drugs can cause permanent hearing loss.

What is The Risk Level For Each Drug?

You may be surprised by the list of drugs that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. You probably take some of these drugs when you are in pain and you might have some of them in your medicine cabinet right now.

Over the counter pain relievers are at the top of the list of ototoxic drugs:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Salicylates, better known as aspirin, are included on this list. The hearing issues caused by these medications are usually reversible when you stop taking them.

Ranking a close second for common ototoxic drugs are antibiotics. Not all antibiotics are ototoxic, though. a few that aren’t which you might have heard of include:

  • Erythromycin
  • Gentamycin
  • Vancomycin

When you quit using the antibiotics the problem disappears as with painkillers. The common list of other drugs include:

  • Chloroquine
  • Quinidine
  • Quinine

Tinnitus Can be Triggered by Several Common Compounds

Edecrin

  • Tonic water
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana

Each and every time you drink your morning coffee, you are exposing yourself to something that could make your ears ring. The good news is it will clear up once the drug leaves your system. Some drugs, ironically, which doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are actually on the list of culprits.

  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine

The doctor will prescribe much less than the amount that will cause tinnitus.

What Are the Symptoms of Ototoxicity?

The signs or symptoms of tinnitus vary depending on your ear health and which medication you get. Typically, you can anticipate anything from slightly annoying to completely incapacitating.

Be on guard for:

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

Get in touch with your physician if you notice any of these symptoms after taking medication even over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements.

If you have ototoxicity does that mean you shouldn’t take your medication? You should never stop using what your doctor tells you to. Don’t forget, often the changes in your balance or hearing are not permanent. Keep yourself aware by always asking your doctor about the possible side effects of a medication and don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. Also, schedule a hearing test with a hearing care expert.

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