Some medications cause damage to the ear that results in hearing loss, ranging in severity or length of time. These drugs, called ototoxic, are found over the counter, prescribed by doctors, and even an unfortunate side effect of chemotherapy treatments.

Sadly, out of all the drug labels on the market today, hearing loss is one of the least likely to be noted as a side effect. But there are over 200 known ototoxic medications on the market right now, and the hearing loss associated with drugs like this can range from a ringing sound that doesn’t last more than a few hours to permanent and irreversible impairment.

Who Is Likely to Have Medication Induced Hearing Loss?

Because anyone taking a range of common medications can wide up with hearing loss as a side effect, many people have this type of hearing damage.

Sometimes balance problems can accompany the hearing loss, and some people find the loss reversed after they stop using the drug. For some, though, damage remains permanent.

Risk factors elevate your chances of winding up with drug or noise-induced hearing loss such as:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • A diet high in fat
  • Poor health
  • Poor nutrition
  • Age

Many of these medications are used by the elderly population, who usually take more medication for a longer period of time than other age groups.

Ototoxic Drugs as Causes of Hearing Loss

Ototoxic Drugs as Causes of Hearing Loss

Medications that damage the ear, one of the main causes of hearing loss, are ototoxic drugs. These medications can cause damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear, causing trouble with hearing and balance. Over 200 types exist on the market. Often, ototoxic medications include medicines to treat the following illnesses:

  • Heart disease
  • Serious infections
  • Ear infections
  • Cancer

Drugs like this include the following list of the five most common ototoxic medications used today, ranging in how easy they are to obtain as well as how severe the hearing loss can be and how long it lasts.


The most common type of antibiotic prescribed worldwide, antibiotics called aminoglycosides comes with a 20% to 60% chance of permanent hearing loss.

Physicians often prescribed this drug as a form of eardrops like neomycin to treat ear infections until recent years. Effects of the drug can even include kidney damage.


In very large doses (typically 8-12 pills each day), Aspirin can cause temporary hearing loss. Usually, this effect is reversible as soon as you reduce or stop the amount of aspirin you take.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Drugs used for anti-inflammatory benefits, NSAIDs such as naproxen and ibuprofen have a history of being linked with hearing problems due to a reduction in blood flow to the cochlea (located in the inner ear) that impairs its function.

Chemotherapy drugs

It’s no wonder that the chemicals used to kill off cancer also contain drugs like carboplatin, cisplatin, or bleomycin, all of which linked to various severities of hearing loss.

Unlike any other ototoxic drugs that cause hearing loss on this list, this is the only instance where the benefit of using the drug outweighs the risk of side effects.

Loop Diuretics

Loop diuretics like bumetanide and furosemide are used for… They work by changing the balance of salt and fluid in the inner ear, which can cause swelling and damage nerve signals.

Typically, hearing loss caused by loop diuretics is temporary. However, if you use them in combination with other ototoxic medications, the hearing loss is more likely to be permanent.

How to Stay Safe from Medication Induced Hearing Issues

You can protect yourself from ototoxicity when taking certain medications by avoiding all other risks of hearing loss, such as exposure to loud noise.

While experiencing the effects of drugs, you should always talk to your doctors, especially if you have noticed any changes in your hearing or balance during daily activities.

Monitoring your hearing during treatments using these drugs can help an audiologist if you do need to order hearing tests.

Speaking with your doctors regularly and sharing pertinent concerns or information helps them make important decisions in your treatment. A professional will weigh the risk of the drugs against the benefits of using them.

Cancer treatments with chemotherapy are a perfect example of this, as the drugs are strong enough to cause serious illness and strain on the body but the benefit of beating the disease and making a full recovery is worth every second.

As every case of disease is different and every person is different, so the information you provide can directly affect changes to your drug therapy before the hearing is damaged too severely.

If you ever notice hearing or balance changes, especially a ringing sound in your ears, contact an audiologist as soon as possible to schedule a hearing test.