Medications that cause hearing loss and tinnitus.

Looking at the side effects of a medication when you first begin using it is a natural thing to do. Can you expect to feel Nauseous or to have a dry mouth? There is a more severe possible side effect that you might not realize which is hearing loss. It’s a complication medical specialists call ototoxicity. Ear poisoning is what ototoxicity breaks down to.

It’s not completely clear how many drugs lead to this problem, but there are at least 130 that are on record as being ototoxic. What are some of the common ones you should watch out for and why?

A Little About Ototoxicity

How does a pill reap havoc on your ears after you swallow it? There are three places certain drugs can damage your hearing:

  • The stria vascularis – Located in the cochlea, the stria vascularis makes endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Too much or too little endolymph has a significant impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The cochlea – That’s the seashell-shaped element of the inner ear that takes sound and translates it into an electrical signal the brain can comprehend. Damage to the cochlea impacts the range of sound you can hear, usually beginning with high frequencies then escalating to include lower ones.
  • The vestibule of the ear – This is the area that sits in the middle of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. It helps manage balance. Vestibulotoxicity drugs can make you dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.

Besides the drugs that can cause hearing loss, there are some that cause tinnitus only. If you hear phantom sounds, that may be tinnitus and it commonly shows up as:

  • Ringing
  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • A windy sound

Usually if you quit using the medication the tinnitus will stop. However, some of these drugs can cause permanent hearing loss.

What is The Risk Level For Each Drug?

You may be shocked by the list of medications that can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. You probably take some of these drugs when you are in pain and you might have some of them in your medicine cabinet right now.

Over the counter pain relievers top the list of ototoxic drugs:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

You can include on the list salicylates that you might know better as aspirin. While all these can result in some hearing issues, they are correctable when you quit using the meds.

Ranking a close second for well known ototoxic medications are antibiotics. Some antibiotics are ototoxic but many aren’t. You may have heard of some of these that aren’t:

  • Vancomycin
  • Gentamycin
  • Erythromycin

Once you quit taking the antibiotics the issue goes away like with painkillers. The standard list of other drugs include:

  • Chloroquine
  • Quinidine
  • Quinine

Tinnitus Can be Caused by Several Common Compounds

Diamox, Bumex, Lasix and Edecrin are diuretics which trigger tinnitus but there are bigger offenders in this category:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana

You are exposing yourself to something that may cause tinnitus every time you have your morning coffee. The good news is it will go away once the drug leaves your system. Some drugs, ironically, that doctors give to treat tinnitus are actually on the list of culprits.

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

The prescribed amount should be less than what triggers ringing, though.

What Are the Symptoms of Ototoxicity?

They vary depending on the medication and your ear health. Mildly irritating to totally incapacitating is the things you can typically be expecting.

Be on guard for:

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

Get in touch with your physician if you observe any of these symptoms after taking medication even over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements.

If you have ototoxicity does that mean you shouldn’t take your medication? You always should take the medication your doctor prescribes. Don’t forget, often the changes in your balance or hearing are not permanent. Keep yourself aware by always asking your doctor about the potential side effects of a medication and don’t be reluctant to ask about ototoxicity. Also, get a hearing test with a hearing care professional.

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