Ototoxic Hearing Loss Explained

Substances that are poisonous to the ear, and specifically to parts of the cochlea or auditory nerve, are referred to as “ototoxic.” 

The source of the word comes from a combination of two Latin words: 

  1. Oto, which translates to “ear”, and
  2. Toxicity, which translates to “poisoning”

Certain prescription medications are known to be ototoxic, and could cause symptoms of tinnitus or hearing loss in some patients. Understanding which medications can cause ototoxic hearing loss will allow you to work with your primary care physician to monitor your hearing health

What are the Symptoms of Ototoxic Hearing Loss?

Symptoms of ototoxic hearing loss may be mild or severe. Common symptoms include:

  1. A loss of hearing
  2. Persistent ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus
  3. A loss of balance

What Medications Are Ototoxic?

A number of different medications are known as potentially ototoxic. Some include medications that are used to treat cancer, infections or heart disease. The degree of ototoxicity may vary, and can be influenced by how long you’ve been taking the medications, your dosage, infusion rates, and other drug interactions. The most common ototoxic medications are:

  1. Aspirin and other painkillers - Generally, ototoxicity is only a concern in large doses
  2. Chemotherapy or other cancer treatments - This could include cisplatin, bleomycin and cyclophosphamide
  3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) - Most common being ibuprofen
  4. Certain diuretics - Furosemide or bumetanide
  5. Certain antibiotics — Aminoglycosides (gentamicin, streptomycin, or neomycin)

For a more complete list of ototoxic medications, click here.

How Can You Protect Your Ears?

In most cases, ototoxic hearing loss is not permanent. It is also not very common. But it’s still important to be vigilant. Ensure that your primary care physician knows what medication you’re taking, including prescription medication or over-the-counter medication. That way, they can raise any cause for concern.

Your primary care physician may also advise that you book an appointment with a hearing care professional. This will allow them to establish your baseline hearing, and monitor for any changes.

Come in and See the Experts at Family Audiology

Still have questions about ototoxic hearing loss and the importance of early detection? We are here to help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of certified hearing care professionals at Family Audiology.

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