Ototoxicity Awareness: Medications That Can Impact Your Hearing

Medications play a crucial role in managing various health conditions, but it’s essential to be aware that some drugs can have unintended side effects on your hearing. Ototoxicity refers to the potential for certain medications to cause damage to the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues. In this blog, we will explore some common medications that may pose risks to your auditory health and how you can protect your hearing.


Certain classes of antibiotics, such as aminoglycosides and macrolides, are known to have ototoxic effects. These medications are often prescribed to treat bacterial infections but can cause damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. Examples of ototoxic antibiotics include gentamicin, streptomycin, and erythromycin. While these drugs are effective in fighting infections, it’s essential to monitor your hearing and report any changes to your healthcare provider.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin, as well as prescription NSAIDs, can have ototoxic effects when taken in high doses or over an extended period. These medications can cause temporary hearing changes, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or even permanent hearing loss in some cases. It’s crucial to follow the recommended dosage guidelines and consult your doctor if you experience any auditory symptoms while taking NSAIDs.

Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy drugs, while essential for treating cancer, can also damage the hair cells in the inner ear and lead to hearing loss or balance problems. Platinum-based drugs like cisplatin and carboplatin are particularly known for their ototoxic effects. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, your oncologist will closely monitor your hearing and may adjust your treatment regimen to minimize the risk of ototoxicity.


Diuretic medications, commonly prescribed to manage conditions like high blood pressure and heart failure, can affect fluid balance in the body, including the inner ear. Certain diuretics, such as furosemide and bumetanide, have been associated with ototoxicity and may cause hearing loss or tinnitus. If you’re taking diuretics, your doctor will monitor your electrolyte levels and kidney function to reduce the risk of ototoxic side effects.


Some antidepressant medications, particularly those in the tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) class, have been linked to ototoxicity. These drugs can interfere with neurotransmitter activity in the auditory system, leading to hearing changes or tinnitus. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are generally considered safer options for individuals concerned about ototoxic effects.

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic drugs, used to treat conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, have been associated with ototoxicity, particularly at higher doses. Clozapine and chlorpromazine are examples of antipsychotics that may cause hearing loss or balance issues. If you’re prescribed antipsychotic medication, your healthcare provider will monitor your hearing function as part of your overall treatment plan.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

In addition to NSAIDs, certain over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, can have ototoxic effects when taken in excessive amounts. While acetaminophen is generally considered safe when used as directed, overdoses can lead to liver damage and, in some cases, hearing loss or tinnitus. It’s crucial to follow the recommended dosage guidelines and avoid exceeding the maximum daily limit.

Protecting Your Hearing Health

If you’re taking any medications known to have ototoxic effects, it’s essential to be proactive about protecting your hearing health. Here are some tips to minimize the risk of ototoxicity:

  • Communicate with Your Healthcare Provider: Inform your doctor about any changes in your hearing or balance, especially if you’re taking medications with known ototoxic potential.
  • Monitor Your Hearing: Schedule regular hearing evaluations to monitor your auditory function and detect any signs of ototoxicity early.
  • Follow Dosage Guidelines: Take medications as prescribed and avoid exceeding the recommended dosage to reduce the risk of adverse effects.
  • Consider Alternative Treatments: If you’re concerned about the ototoxic effects of certain medications, discuss alternative treatment options with your healthcare provider.
  • Practice Hearing Protection: Minimize exposure to loud noise and use earplugs or earmuffs when participating in noisy activities to prevent further damage to your hearing.

By staying informed about the potential ototoxic effects of medications and taking proactive steps to protect your hearing health, you can minimize the risk of drug-induced hearing loss and enjoy optimal auditory function for years to come.

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Ready to learn more about ototoxicity and how to safeguard your hearing? Contact our experienced audiologists at Madison & Saratoga Hearing Center for personalized guidance and expert care. If you have questions or would like to get your hearing checked, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Call 518-430-4005 or click here to book a consultation today.

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