Hearing Loss Can be Caused by These Prevalent Medications

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 trigger digestive problems? Will it cause dehydration? Make you drowsy? You may not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, including hearing loss. Lots of different medications are known to cause this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

Exactly how many drugs are there that can cause this issue? Well, there are numerous medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic reaction, but exactly how many is still somewhat uncertain. So, which ones do you need to pay attention to and why?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How can a pill cause problems with your ears after you swallow it? There are three distinct places certain drugs can harm your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: Located in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both hearing and balance are affected by too much or too little endolymph.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its main function is to regulate 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 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, usually starting with high frequencies then expanding to include lower ones.

What is the threat level for each drug?

The checklist of drugs that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss might surprise you. Many of them you probably have in your medicine cabinet even now, and it’s likely that you take them before you go to bed or when you’re dealing with a headache.

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

You can add salicylates to the list, better known as aspirin. The hearing problems due to these drugs are typically correctable when you stop taking them.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can trigger tinnitus

Some medications may cause tinnitus and others could result in loss of hearing. If you hear phantom sounds, that could be tinnitus and it usually shows up as:

  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound

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

  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water

You may not be aware that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. Here’s the good news, it should clear up once the chemical is out of your system. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to manage tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

Usually, the tinnitus will end when you quit taking the medication but always seek advice from your doctor, they will know what’s best for you.

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

The signs or symptoms of tinnitus vary depending on your ear health and which medication you get.

Be on guard for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always consulting your doctor about the possible side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. Contact your doctor right away if you detect any tinnitus symptoms that might have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

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