Hearing Loss Can be Caused by These Prevalent Medications

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s natural to want to understand the side effects of a medication when you start using it. Can it upset your stomach? Will it cause dehydration? Cause insomnia? There might also be a more serious possible side effect that you might not think of – hearing loss. Lots of different medications are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

So can this issue be caused by a lot of drugs? Well, there are a number of medications recognized to trigger an ototoxic reaction, but exactly how many is still rather unclear. So, which ones do you need to pay attention to and why?

Ototoxicity – what you should know

How can a medication cause problems with your ears after you swallow it? There are three different places certain drugs can damage 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 impacted by too much or too little endolymph.
  • 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 affects the range of sound you can hear, typically beginning with high frequencies then extending to include lower ones.
  • The vestibule of the ear: This is the part of the ear situated in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. Its principal function is to manage balance. When a medication triggers an ototoxic reaction to the vestibule of the inner ear, you can experience balance issues and the feeling that the room is spinning.

What is the threat level for each drug?

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

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

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Aspirin, also called salicylates, is on this list too. The hearing problems caused by these drugs are normally reversible when you quit taking them.

Antibiotics are a close second for well-known ototoxic drugs. You might have heard of some of these:

  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin

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. If you hear phantom noises, that may be tinnitus and it typically shows up as:

  • Popping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Thumping
  • Ringing

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

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water

You may not realize that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. Fortunately, once the diuretic has cleared your system, the ringing should go away. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of possible causes such as:

  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine

After you discontinue the medication, the symptoms should improve, and your doctor will be there to help you with anything you may need to know.

Ototoxicity has particular symptoms

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

Be on guard for:

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

Be sure you consult your doctor about any possible side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. Contact your doctor right away if you detect any tinnitus symptoms that may have been caused by an ototoxic reaction.

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