Can Some Medicines Cause Hearing Loss?

August 26th, 2015 | by Andreas Seelisch | Hearing Loss
Can Some Medicines Cause Hearing Loss?

The link between antibiotics and hearing loss was first recognized in a drug used to cure tuberculosis called streptomycin, which caused permanent damage to hearing and balance systems.

In an effort to get over an illness we sometimes take medication prescribed by a physician. However, there are some drugs that can cause hearing loss.

Drugs that are known to cause hearing loss or deafness are called ototoxic medicines.

How does ototoxicity affect your hearing?

Usually ototoxic medicines cause hearing loss because they damage the cochlea in the inner ear. The inner ear controls your hearing and balance systems.

Some medication can cause irreversible damage to your hearing and balance.

Hearing loss caused by an ototoxic drug tends to manifest itself rapidly.

In some cases your hearing can return to normal once you’ve stopped taking the medication causing the loss. Meanwhile, other drugs can cause permanent damage even after you’ve stopped taking them.

Some medicines that can cause ototoxicity and vestibulotoxicity (damage to the balance system) are listed in the table below.

  Ototoxic and Vestibulotoxic Drugs


  Amikacin   Azithromycin
  Capreomycin   Chloramphenicol
  Clarithromycin   Dihydrostreptomycin
  Metronidzole   Neomycin
  Polymyxin B   Tobramycin

Other Drugs

  Apirin in large doses   Ibuprofen
  Naproxen   Furosemide
  Bumetanide   Cyclophosphamide
  Cisplatin   Bleomycin

How to recognize signs of possible damage

If you experience any of the symptoms below after taking an antibiotic or any other medication you should see your physician as soon as possible:

  • Tinnitus (or ringing, buzzing, hissing in the ear)
  • Any noticeably sudden changes in hearing
  • Any sudden problem with your balance or worsening of an existing problem with your balance/vertigo

People that would be most at risk are:

  • Patients who need to take high doses of medication
  • Anyone with acute or chronic renal failure
  • Anyone who needs to take more than one ototoxic medication

Study seeks to change ototoxic nature of some antibiotics

One study by the Stanford University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation is looking at modifying a common antibiotic so that it doesn’t cause hearing loss.

So far researchers have found that when mice were given a modified version of an aminoglycoside, the drug worked effectively without causing deafness.

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