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Ototoxic Drugs

Updated on September 25, 2012
Hearing horns were a helpful invention of their day.
Hearing horns were a helpful invention of their day. | Source

What is an Ototoxic Medication

Ototoxic medications are drugs that can damage your inner ear, resulting in tinnitus1, or temporary or permanent hearing loss. If your hearing loss is diagnosed as sensorineural, it is important to consult with your doctor and Pharmacist on the medications that get prescribed to you, as these particular drugs have been known to aggravate an already existing hearing problem.

1Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a condition. It is when you hear a sound in your ear, when there is no actual external noise. It is commonly noted as ringing in the ear(s).

How Much Hearing Can I Lose by Using Ototoxic Drugs

Just how much hearing loss occurs with ototoxic medications depends directly on how much of, and how long you use the drug. This grows significantly if you are using more than one ototoxic medication. In this situation, using more than one medication, can cause greater sensorineural hearing loss2 or worsen an existing hearing loss. It is good to know that with several of these drugs, like aspirin, hearing loss returns to normal after you stop taking it, no matter how long it has been used.

2Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. It happens when damage to the inner ear (cochlea), or nerve routs to the inner ear or brain occurs. The damage cannot be medically or surgically repaired in most situations.

What Are the Symptoms of Ototoxicity

You should let your doctor know if you are experiencing any of the signs listed here:

  • dizziness
  • pressure in the ears
  • noises in the ears (tinnitus)
  • if a change or fluctuation in hearing loss occurs
  • if a greater loss in hearing is noticed

If you do happen to have the symptoms, talk to your doctor about it to find out if any of your prescribed medications are in fact ototoxic. It is also a good idea to consult with your pharmacist as to whether any over the counter (OTC) medications you take have ototoxic results. Your hearing specialist will also want to know the drugs you are taking, so he can determine the actual cause of changes in your hearing loss and perception.

What You Think Really Does Matter

Did you know Ototoxic Medications could cause hearing loss?

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Common Ototoxic Medications

Here you will find a list of medications and the effects they may have on your hearing loss.


The effects found in drugs that have quinine in them—atabrine, legatrin, Q-Vel (muscle relaxer), aralen— are most closely related to those effects of aspirin. The effects usually go away once the medication is discontinued.

Loop Diuretics

This group usually only becomes ototoxic when given intravenously. This group will include the drugs, Edecrin, Lasix, and Bumex. Ototoxicity is very unusual when given as oral dosages.

Salicylate (aspirin-like) medications have been known to have effects on hearing loss.
Salicylate (aspirin-like) medications have been known to have effects on hearing loss. | Source

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

When taking a dose of six to eight nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory pills—like Clinoril, Motrin, Advil— a day you may experience ototoxic effects. These toxic effects are generally reversible once you discontinue taking the drug.


Products like aspirin, and drugs that have aspirin in them, can cause ototoxic effects after taking six to eight pills a day. In these cases, the toxic effects always go away after you stop taking the medication.

3Salicylate is used as an analgesic agent for the relief of mild to moderate pain. The most common and recognizable form is found as aspirin, which is used as an anti-inflammatory drug for soft-tissue and joint pain relief.


The medications erythromycin, vancomycin, and streptomycin, are ototoxic when administered intravenously. If taken by mouth or in their topical form, they are not known to show any signs of hearing loss.

Chemotherapeutic Agents

The big hitters in this group are nitrogen mustard, vincristine, and cisplatin; which are all ototoxic when given for the treatment of cancers. The effects of these drugs is amplified when given in correlation with other ototoxic medications like aminoglycoside antibiotics—kanamycin, neomycin, gentamcin, tobramycin, etc.—and loop diuretics.

Hearing Loss Percentages According to Age

  • 1.7% of children (1.2 million) under the age of eighteen have a hearing loss
  • 18% of the Baby-boomers (45 to 64 years in age) have some degree of hearing loss
  • Approximately 3 out of 1,000 babies have serious to profound hearing loss
  • 29% of those over the age of 65 have hearing loss
  • 65% of those with hearing loss are under the age of 65
  • Almost six million people across the United States between the ages of 18 and 44 have some hearing loss (over a million are school age)
  • Only about 14% of doctors screen for hearing loss regularly

Hearing Loss Averages by Age Group

(click column header to sort results)
17 and younger
18 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 to 74
Over 75
Information derived from Cleveland Clinic (.org)

Why Learn About Ototoxic Medications and Hearing Loss

Learning about ototoxic drugs and the symptoms that they produce gives you the advantage of early detection, which can Keep your residual hearing safe from damage. If you think you are experiencing the signs of ototoxic medications, contact your doctor right away. You may also wish to discontinue their use—but only upon the advice of your doctor. It's up to you to know just what you are putting your body through when it comes to prescribed, as well as OTC medications.


Comments for "Ototoxic Drugs"

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  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    @theclevercat~ Thanks, Rachell! So glad you learned some stuff about hearing loss!


  • theclevercat profile image

    Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    Wow K9, I've learned so much from these hearing loss hubs. Thanks!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    Nell Rose~ Not many people know about the aspirin and hearing loss connection. I hope this helps people understand their roll when it comes to medications, prescribed or otherwise. Thank you so much for leaving your comments!


  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    Happyboomernurse~ Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this hub. You are right, not many people know that simple OTC drugs can cause hearing problems. I appreciate your approval!


  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

    Great information about something that not only had I not heard about, but never even thought of, especially Aspirin, voted up and very useful! nell

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

    Excellent, comprehensive, well researched article about an important topic that affects many people. I would guess that the general public is mostly unaware that these common drugs can cause hearing problems. You've done a great job at packing a lot of information into this article in an easy to read format.

    Voted up, useful and interesting.

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    sgbrown~ They are still working on finding ways to fight the effect ototoxic medications have on some people's hearing. But to date, nothing has been authorized. I am glad you found the article new and informative. I appreciate your comments.


  • sgbrown profile image

    Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

    Very interesting information. I had no idea that there were any drugs that could cause hearing loss. Glad you shared this information! Voted up and useful! :)