Common Medications That Cause Hearing Loss

Close up of colorful medications that can cause hearing loss.

It’s normal to want to know about the side effects of a medication when you start taking it. Can it trigger digestive issues? Will it cause dry mouth? Cause sleeplessness? You may not even know about some of the more impactful side effects, such as hearing loss. Ototoxicity is the medical term professionals have given this condition and there are many drugs that are known to cause it.

So can this issue be caused by a lot of medications? The answer is not clear, but there are plenty that are recognized to trigger ototoxic symptoms. So, which ones should you pay attention to and why?

What to know about ototoxicity

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

  • The cochlea: That’s the seashell-shaped part of the inner ear that takes sound and converts it into an electrical signal that the brain can comprehend. When the cochlea is compromised, 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 middle is the vestibule of the ear. It helps regulate 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.
  • The stria vascularis: Found in the cochlea, the stria vascularis produces endolymph, the fluid in the inner ear. Both balance and hearing are impacted by too much or too little endolymph.

Do different drugs have different risk levels?

You may be surprised by the list of medications that can cause an ototoxic response. Several of them you probably 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.

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

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

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

Next on the list of common ototoxic drugs would be specific antibiotics. Some of these may be familiar:

  • Streptomycin
  • Kanamycin
  • Tobramycin

There are also several other compounds that can induce tinnitus

Hearing loss can be the outcome of some medications and others might trigger tinnitus. If you hear phantom noises, that might be tinnitus and it typically shows up as:

  • Ringing
  • Thumping
  • A whooshing sound
  • Popping

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

  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Tonic water

Every single time you drink your coffee or black tea in the morning, you are exposing your body to something that could make your ears ring. Here’s the good news, it should clear up once the drug is out of your system. Ironically, some drugs doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are also on the list of potential causes such as:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Lidocaine
  • Prednisone

Typically, the tinnitus will end when you quit using the medication but always talk to 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 vary based on your ear health and which medication you get.

Here are some things to check out for:

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

Be certain that you consult your doctor about any side effects the medication they prescribed may have, including ototoxicity. If you experience ototoxicity we recommend immediately contacting your doctor to report your symptoms, they will know what’s best.

Also, call us today to set up 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.