Hearing Loss Can be Triggered by These Prevalent Medications

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 educated about any potential side effects. Can it give you a stomach ache? Will it cause dry mouth? Make you sleepy? You might not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, like hearing loss. Lots of different medications are known to cause this condition which medical professionals label as ototoxicity.

So can this problem be triggered by a lot of drugs? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to cause an ototoxic reaction, but just how many is still somewhat unclear. So, which ones should you watch out for and why?

What you need to know about ototoxicity

How can a pill damage your hearing after you take it? There are three different places specific drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis: Situated in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the portion of the ear that sits in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its main function is to regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to become dizzy or feel like 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 affects the range of sound you can hear, typically starting with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.

What is the risk level for each drug?

The checklist of drugs which can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss may surprise you. Ototoxic medications are pretty common and the majority of individuals have several of them in their medicine cabinets right now.

Over-the-counter pain medication including the following top the list:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list as well. When you stop taking these drugs, your hearing will typically go back to normal.

Antibiotics come in as a close second for well-known ototoxic drugs. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Kanamycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by several common compounds

Some medications might cause tinnitus and others could lead to loss of hearing. Here are a few ways tinnitus may present:

  • Ringing
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping

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

  • Nicotine
  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine

You might not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. The good news is it should clear up after the drug is out of your system. The following drugs are prescribed to treat tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

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

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be certain that you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. Contact your doctor right away if you experience 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.