Prevalent Medications That Can Trigger Hearing Loss

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s natural to want to learn about the side effects of a medication when you start using it. Can it cause digestive issues? Will it cause dry mouth? Cause insomnia? There may also be a more severe possible side effect that you might not be aware of – hearing loss. Many different medications are known to cause this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

Exactly how many medications are there that can lead to this problem? The answer is unclear, but there are lots that are known to trigger ototoxic symptoms. So which medications do you personally need to know about?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How is it possible for your hearing to be affected by medication? Your hearing can be harmed by medication in three distinct places:

  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that produces fluid known as endolymph. Too much or too little endolymph has a substantial impact on both balance and hearing.
  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that receives sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can comprehend. When the cochlea is damaged, you will start to lose some frequencies of sound, especially in the high-frequency range.
  • The vestibule of the ear: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and situated right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. It helps 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.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

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

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

You can add salicylates to the list, which is aspirin. When you stop using these drugs, your hearing will usually go back to normal.

Antibiotics are a close second for prevalent ototoxic drugs. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin
  • Kanamycin

There are also numerous other compounds that can induce tinnitus

Hearing loss can be the result of some drugs and others may trigger tinnitus. If you hear phantom noises, that may be tinnitus and it usually shows up as:

  • Ringing
  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping
  • Popping

Certain diuretics will also trigger tinnitus, here are a few of the primary offenders:

  • Nicotine
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine
  • Marijuana

You may not be aware that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. Luckily, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should go away. The following drugs are prescribed to manage tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline

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

There are very distinct symptoms with an ototoxic response

The signs or symptoms of tinnitus differ based on your hearing health and which medication you get.

Here are a few things to check out for:

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

Keep yourself informed by always consulting your physician about the possible side effects of a medication, don’t hesitate to ask about ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we recommend immediately contacting your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, schedule a hearing exam 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.