There are countless drug and medication promotions today with seemingly endless lists of unfavorable side effects. But did you know that there are specific medicines that can be unhealthy for your hearing? These medications do exist, and they are called ototoxic medications. Both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription may have ototoxic side effects. You can find in excess of 200 known ototoxic medications that are regularly used according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA). The 5 classes of medications listed below are a few of the more common products that you may be familiar with or possibly be using.
- Salicylates – Salicylates are chemicals in aspirin – one of the most widely used heart disease treatments and pain reliever. In doses of eight or more tablets per day, salicylates are known to cause hearing loss and tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). Thankfully, the adverse effects wear off once the medication containing the salicylates is discontinued.
- NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often abbreviated NSAIDs, can lead to temporary hearing loss and a ringing in the ears in high doses.Some common NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Loop Diuretics – High blood pressure, heart failure, and some kidney conditions are routinely treated with Loop diuretics. Possible side effects are hearing loss and tinnitus that you may or may not be noticeable.
- Chemotherapy Drugs – Cancer treatment medications, such as cyclophosphamide, bleomycin, cisplatin and carboplatin can cause irreversible hearing damage. Changes in your hearing or balance while taking these or other chemotherapy drugs should be discussed with your oncologist.
- Aminoglycoside Antibiotics – Aminoglycoside antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections; they go by names such as streptomycin, neomycin, gentamicin, kanamycin and amikacin. These drugs generate free radicals, which can cause damage to the inner ear. Expectant mothers should be aware of possible congenital deafness from using aminoglycosides while pregnant.
The risk for ear damage generally rises with dosage for most drugs and when several of these medications are taken at once. To safeguard your hearing health, talk to your doctor for substitutes to known ototoxic medications; if they cannot be avoided, make sure you are taking the correct dose exactly as directed.