A variety of drugs can induce hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), over 200 drugs can cause hearing loss or balance problems.
This is known as ototoxicity. The name “oto” relates to the ear, and “toxic” means dangerous. It is also referred to as drug-induced hearing loss. Without further ado, let’s discuss hearing loss and all the medications that may cause or trigger it!
Medication and Hearing Damage
The severity of hearing loss and tinnitus varies with medicine dose and duration of intake. The risk of ototoxicity increases with pharmaceutical accumulation, and may also cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Ototoxicity has been associated with a number of well-known pharmacological classes. If you are taking any of these medications and are experiencing hearing or balance issues, call your doctor right away. Do not stop taking your prescription medicine without first discussing it with your doctor.
Quinoline, Chloroquine, and Hydroxychloroquine
Quinine has been used to combat malaria for centuries. Meanwhile, off-label usage of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for lupus and nocturnal leg cramps. Then only in 2020, the FDA approved hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment for children and adults in emergency hospitals. However, the efficacy and safety of the medicine are subject to change.
According to the American Academy of Audiology, these medicines may occasionally cause transient hearing loss and tinnitus within days after starting treatment. Most of the time, when the medicine is stopped, the symptoms usually go away.
Antibiotics, such as Aminoglycosides, are medications that are prescribed to treat bacterial infections. They exist in many different forms, but aminoglycosides like Gentamicin are one that has been associated with hearing loss. They are used when other antibiotics fail to treat serious illnesses such as meningitis.
These drugs, according to a handout from the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, tend to clear slowly from inner ear fluids and have been identified months after the final dose. This causes a condition known as delayed-onset hearing loss, which can appear years after the medicine has been administered. It may also increase noise-induced hearing loss.
Hearing loss has been linked to certain cancer medications. Cisplatin, for example, is a platinum-based chemotherapeutic drug used to treat advanced bladder, ovarian, and testicular malignancies. This medication may cause tinnitus, vertigo, and temporary and permanent hearing loss. Ototoxicity affects almost half of the people who take this medicine.
At exceptionally high doses, over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, naproxen, and acetaminophen can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. This category includes analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found a link between NSAID use and hearing loss, especially in men under the age of 60. Another study found a similar pattern of outcomes among women who used NSAIDs. If you take aspirin or another NSAID on a daily basis, talk to your doctor about the medication’s risk for causing hearing loss.
Diuretics such as furosemine, ethacrynic acid, and bemetanide, are medications that are used to reduce physiological fluid retention. They are commonly prescribed to individuals who have edema, glaucoma, or hypertension.
Drug-induced hearing loss could be unpredictable. Some drugs may even induce temporary hearing loss and tinnitus due to unexplained factors. The effects are more severe when administered intravenously or in combination with other ototoxic medications.
Although, it’s also important to note that the use of one of these drugs does not always result in conditions such as tinnitus. Moreover, medication side effects might range from brief tinnitus and hearing loss to permanent hearing loss. And in better cases, there could also be no side effects or hearing loss at all.
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