Medications that cause hearing loss and tinnitus.

Going over the side effects of a medication when you first begin taking it is a normal thing to do. Can you expect to feel Nauseous or to have a dry mouth? A more severe side effect that can potentially occur is hearing loss. It’s a condition medical specialists call ototoxicity. Ear poisoning is what ototoxicity breaks down to.

It’s still not known how many drugs cause this problem, but there are at least 130 that are known to be ototoxic. What are some of the most common ones you should look out for and why?

A Little About Ototoxicity

What happens to trigger hearing loss after you swallow your medication. There are three 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. Too much or too little endolymph has a considerable impact on both hearing and balance.
  • The cochlea – That’s the seashell-shaped element of the inner ear that takes sound and converts 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 part of the ear that sits in the center of the labyrinth that makes up the cochlea. It helps regulate balance. Vestibulotoxicity medications can cause you to get dizzy or feel like the room is spinning.

Tinnitus is caused by some drugs while others cause hearing loss. Tinnitus is a phantom sound people hear that usually presents as:

  • Popping
  • Thumping
  • Ringing
  • A windy sound

When you discontinue the medication, the tinnitus generally stops. However, some of these drugs can cause permanent hearing loss.

What Drugs Put You at Risk?

Permanent hearing loss can be caused by a list of drugs that might surprise you. It’s likely that you 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:

  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Salicylates, better recognized as aspirin, can be added to this list. While all these can result in some hearing issues, they are correctable when you quit using the meds.

Coming in a close second for well known ototoxic drugs are antibiotics. Not all antibiotics are ototoxic, though. a few that aren’t which you might have heard of include:

  • Erythromycin
  • Gentamycin
  • Vancomycin

As with the pain relievers, the issue goes away once you stop using the antibiotic. The standard list of other drugs include:

  • Quinine
  • Quinidine
  • Chloroquine

Compounds That Trigger Tinnitus

Some diuretics can cause tinnitus, including brand names Lasix, Bumex, and Diamox but the leading offenders in this category are things like:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Tonic water
  • Marijuana

You are subjecting your body to something that might cause tinnitus every time you have your morning coffee. The good news is it will go away once the drug is out of your system. Some drugs, ironically, that doctors prescribe to treat tinnitus are in fact on the list of culprits.

  • Amitriptyline
  • Prednisone
  • Lidocaine

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

Ototoxicity Has Specific Symptoms

They differ based on the medication and your ear health. Typically, you can expect anything from slightly annoying to totally incapacitating.

Be on guard for:

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

If you have any of these symptoms after taking a medication even if it’s an over-the-counter herbal supplement, you should contact your physician.

If you have ototoxicity does that mean you shouldn’t take your medication? You should never stop using what your doctor tells you to. Don’t forget that these symptoms are temporary. Keep yourself aware by always asking your doctor about the possible side effects of a medication and don’t be reluctant to ask about ototoxicity. You should also schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to have a hearing test.

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