Common Medications That Can Trigger Hearing Loss

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 cause digestive issues? Will it cause dry mouth? Cause insomnia? You might not even be aware of some of the more impactful side effects, including hearing loss. Many different medications are known to trigger this condition which medical professionals call ototoxicity.

Exactly how many medications are there that can lead to this problem? The answer is not clear, but there are plenty that are recognized to cause ototoxic symptoms. So which medications do you personally need to know about?

What to know about ototoxicity

How can a pill damage your hearing after you swallow it? Your hearing can be harmed by medication in three different places:

  • The stria vascularis: The stria vascularis is the part of the cochlea that generates fluid known as endolymph. Both hearing and balance are affected 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 sense 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: The cochlea is like a labyrinth, and situated right in the center is the vestibule of the ear. It helps regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity drugs can cause you to become dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.

What is the risk level for each drug?

You might be surprised by the list of drugs that can result in an ototoxic reaction. Many of them you most likely have in your medicine cabinet even now, and chances are you take them before you go to bed or when you have a headache.

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Aspirin, also known as salicylates, is on this list too. The hearing issues caused by these drugs are typically reversible when you stop using them.

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

  • Tobramycin
  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin

Tinnitus can also be triggered by several common compounds

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

  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Ringing

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

  • Marijuana
  • Tonic water
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

You might not be aware that the cup of coffee or black tea in the morning can trigger ringing in your ears. The good news is it should improve after the chemical is out of your system. The following medications are prescribed to manage tinnitus but ironically, they are themselves diuretics:

  • Prednisone
  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine

Usually, the tinnitus will clear 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

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

Here are some things to check out for:

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

Be sure you ask your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we suggest that you contact your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know the best course of action.

Also, call us today to schedule a hearing test to establish a baseline of your hearing health.


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.

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