Prevalent Medications That Can Trigger Hearing Loss

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

When you start on a course of medication, it’s normal to want to be informed about any potential side effects. Can it trigger digestive issues? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you drowsy? You may not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, including hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical term professionals have given this condition and there are lots of drugs that are known to cause it.

Exactly how many drugs are there that can result in this problem? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to cause an ototoxic response, but just how many is still somewhat uncertain. So, which ones do you need to pay attention to and why?

What to know about ototoxicity

How is it possible for your hearing to be affected by medication? 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 converts 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 beginning 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. Its primary function is to manage balance. When a medication causes an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance problems and the feeling that the room is spinning.
  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that generates fluid called endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial impact on both hearing and balance.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

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

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list as well. The hearing issues caused by these drugs are normally correctable when you stop taking them.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

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

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

  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping
  • Popping
  • Ringing

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

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water

You may not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can cause ringing in your ears. The good news is it should improve once 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:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

After you discontinue the medication, the symptoms should improve, and your doctor will be there to help you with whatever 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:

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

Be certain that you consult your doctor about any possible side effects the medication they prescribed may 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, schedule a hearing test with us, a baseline hearing test is a practical step 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.