Antibiotics Link to Hearing Loss

Are Antibiotics (or other meds) Linked to Hearing Loss?

My Hearing Centers Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Science

Are Antibiotics (or other meds) Linked to Hearing Loss?


Can my meds cause hearing loss?

Some commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medications are known to cause irreversible hearing loss. If a drug has the potential to causes toxic damage to any of the inner ear’s structures (including but not limited to: cochlea, vestibule, or otoliths) the drug is considered to be ototoxic. Specific classes of drugs are listed as ototoxic based on their propensity to cause hearing damage. Over 100 classes of drugs have been associated with ototoxicity. Below is a guide with some basic information about drugs considered ototoxic, the current research, and what you should do if you take one of these medications.


Which drugs are ototoxic?

Aspirin – only harmful in large doses, such as 8-12 pills per day

NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, ibuprofen and naproxen

Antibiotics – aminoglycoside antibiotics (such as gentamicin, streptomycin, and neomycin) are the most likely to cause hearing loss. The risk is intensified for those with preexisting hearing loss or kidney issues.

Cancer Medications – such as cyclophosphamide, cisplatin, and bleomycin.


What does the research say?

Aminoglycoside Antibiotics – The medications that most commonly cause hearing loss are aminoglycoside antibiotics. These antibiotics were discovered in 1944 and are used to treat severe bacterial infections such as meningitis, tuberculosis, and infants with infections. These antibiotics are given intravenously – or through an IV.

In a recent study, healthy mice were given a small dose of aminoglycoside antibiotics. All mice given the drug experienced hearing loss. Those that also experienced inflammation had a much greater degree of hearing loss. According to lead researcher, Peter S. Steyger, PhD, “If you give a healthy animal, or a healthy human, an aminoglycoside for long enough they will go deaf. If they have an infection that induces an inflammation response, they will lose their hearing much faster”. The research calls for stricter guidelines in prescribing the drug – especially for infants. To read the full study review, click here.

NSAIDs – NSAIDs are the most commonly taken over-the-counter medications for mild pain such as headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle aches. Hearing loss due to NSAIDs is common in men and women – especially those under 60. Studies show than men who use NSAIDs are 33% more likely to have hearing loss than those who do not. For women, a study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Studies showed that women under 60 who took NSAIDs at least twice a week had a 13% increase in risk of hearing loss when compared to women who did not use the drug. Women who took the drug more frequently had an even higher risk.


What should I do?

  1. Don’t panic: If you take medications associated with ototoxicity and are experiencing side effects, contact your healthcare professional before changing any medication dosage or routine. Doctors are aware of potential side effects and the benefits of the drug may outweigh the potentially harmful effects at this time.
  2. Know the symptoms: There are some common early symptoms that might indicate damage to hearing due to medications. These include: tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), imbalance, an inability to tolerate rapid head movements, a feeling of fullness in the ears, and unsteadiness.
  3. Talk to your doctor: Notify your healthcare professionals if you have any family or personal history of hearing loss or kidney issues. It is also important to immediately inform your doctor if you experience any side effects associated with ototoxic hearing loss or are worried about the medications you are taking.


If you are experiencing changes in your hearing and suspect it may be due to medication, be sure to contact your doctor and schedule a hearing exam with us at My Hearing Centers.


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