Plainsboro and Monroe, NJ

Plainsboro and Monroe, NJ

Hearing Loss Can be Triggered by These Prevalent Medications

Princeton Otolaryngology Associates: Dr. Scott L. Kay | Hearing Loss Articles

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s natural to want to know about the side effects of a medication when you begin taking it. Can it cause digestive problems? Will it dehydrate you? Cause insomnia? You may not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, like hearing loss. Lots of different drugs are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

So can this issue be caused by a lot of medications? The answer is uncertain, but there are lots that are known to cause ototoxic symptoms. So which drugs do you personally need to know about?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

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

  • 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 impacts the range of sound you can hear, usually starting with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that composes the cochlea. It helps manage balance. When a medication produces an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the feeling that the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis generates endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant impact on both balance and hearing.

What is the threat level for each drug?

You might be surprised by the list of medications that can cause an ototoxic reaction. Ototoxic medications are pretty common and the majority of individuals have several of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

At the top of the list of ototoxic medications are over-the-counter pain relievers such as:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list too. When you quit taking these medications, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

Antibiotics are a close second for well-known ototoxic drugs. Some of these might be familiar:

  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin

There are also a number of other compounds that can trigger tinnitus

Some drugs might cause tinnitus and others could lead to loss of hearing. Here are some ways tinnitus may present:

  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping

Certain diuretics will also cause tinnitus, here are some of the main offenders:

  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

You may not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. Here’s the good news, it should improve after the chemical is out of your system. Ironically, some medications doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Lidocaine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone

Normally, the tinnitus will end when you quit taking the medication but always consult your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

There are very distinct symptoms with an ototoxic response

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be certain that you consult your doctor about any possible side effects the medication they prescribed might have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest immediately contacting your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, schedule a hearing test with us, a baseline hearing test is a proactive measure that can help you preserve 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.

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