There are more than 200 drugs with a known link to hearing loss – these medications are known as “ototoxic.” The severity of hearing problems varies depending on the drug, dosage and length it is taken, but generally the risk increases the more the drug accumulates in the body. Hearing loss caused by medications may be temporary or permanent.
Below are some of the types of drugs most commonly linked to ototoxicity. If you are taking any of the below medications, contact your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits and discuss alternatives.
There are many types of antibiotics, but the class known as aminoglycosides is linked with hearing loss. This type is usually prescribed to treat serious infections like meningitis when other antibiotics prove ineffective. Newborns are particularly at risk and should be screened for hearing loss if they take this drug.
OTC pain relievers like aspirin and acetaminophen can cause hearing loss after prolonged use of high doses. In the medical field, these drugs are known as “analgesics” and “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).” One study published by The American Journal of Medicine found a correlation between use of analgesics and hearing loss in men, and another study found similar results for women. This risk is low if you follow recommendations about dosing, but talk to your doctor if you take these drugs daily.
Diuretics reduce the amount of fluid in the body and are used to treat a variety of conditions, including edema, glaucoma and high blood pressure. These drugs can cause temporary hearing loss and tinnitus; if you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Cisplatin is a platinum-based chemotherapy drug typically used for bladder, ovarian and testicular cancers that have spread. Hearing loss (temporary or permanent) is one listed side effect, along with tinnitus and vertigo. Researchers at OHSU have uncovered a strong correlation between platinum-based chemotherapy drugs and hearing loss and are currently working to develop a chemotherapy drug that does not have ototoxic effects.