August 23, 2022

If you have hearing loss (or even if you don’t) there is something you should know about: ototoxicity.

What is ototoxicity?

Ototoxicity refers to substances such as pharmaceutical medications that can cause short or long-term hearing loss as a side effect. Ototoxicity can be a factor in both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

These drugs may have been found effective for certain conditions and diseases, but they are also known to cause injury to the inner-ear hair cells that affect hearing and overall balance.

Ototoxicity can be either temporarily or permanent–so knowing the risks of each medication or substance and avoiding or preventing this side effect is very important.

Generally speaking, medications and toxins can accumulate in our tissues and fat. This means effects can be cumulative and can get worse as time passes and the chemicals build up.

There have been over 200 pharmaceutical medications that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has identified as ototoxic, affecting both balance and hearing.

You can look up the ASLHA to find the current list and check to see if any of the drugs you are taking are listed. If you are currently taking any of the types of medicines they have identified, it’s a good idea to discuss this issue with your doctor and how they may affect your health and your hearing now and in the future.

You may be wondering which types of over-the-counter and prescription drugs could have this adverse effect, so we will list some of those medicine types below. It’s a good idea to use these types of medications as sparingly as possible to avoid any long-term issues related to your hearing, balance or overall health.

Anti-Inflammatory Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter medicines typically used for pain and inflammation, known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have been shown to result in hearing loss when used regularly over a period of years. This type of drug includes most over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen.

Even a daily aspirin recommended by your doctor may have hearing loss effects and some say it can cause their ears to ring.

Several Classes of Antibiotics

In rare cases antibiotics may be life-saving medicines, and many people rely on them for serious bacterial infections. Aminogycosides are one class of antibiotics that list hearing loss as a known side effect. Because of this risk, Aminogycosides may be used as a last-resort drug when other antibiotics are ineffective for serious infections.


Diuretics can be prescribed to improve conditions like high blood pressure, edema, glaucoma, and other problems. These drugs may additionally result in  tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss, which are usually temporary.

Chemotherapy Treatments

Cisplatin is a platinum-based chemotherapy drug that is commonly used to treat metastatic bladder, ovarian and testicular cancers. Reported adverse events for Cisplatin vary from tinnitus to balance issues, in addition to temporary or even permanent hearing loss. Platinum-based chemotherapy has been strongly correlated with hearing loss, and research is being done to avoid this side effect.

What Can I Do?

If you have a serious or life-threatening illness or condition, you may decide to use these types of drugs, and it is important to weight the benefits and the risks. All medications have risks and known side effects, even if they are readily sold over the counter, so it is important to be aware of these risks and recognize them when they appear.

Everyone is different, and an unexpected reaction or effect may result from any medication, so pay attention to your body and your hearing when taking any medication. Make your physician aware of any concerns that arise, because you know your body best.

If a drug causes hearing loss, balance issues or other unwanted symptoms, it may be as simple as stopping the medication. Work with your doctor on choosing a new medication or finding a viable alternative to get your desired outcome. If you are pro-active, often permanent damage can be avoided.

The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.

Diablo Hearing Services   2301 Camino Ramon, STE 106   San Ramon  (925) 394-4646

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