Medicines - A guide to Hearing Loss

Everyone reacts differently to a particular medicine and it can be difficult predicting how someone will react. Side effects occur as a result of the way a medicine treats a particular condition and will remain so until ‘personalised medicines’ can be developed. Medicines can work wonders but the downside can be a whole range of side effects which includes hearing loss.

Ototoxicity This is the name given to a range of drugs which adversely affect the inner ear and result in hearing loss. They can also cause tinnitus and balance problems. They cause sensorineural hearing loss – a form of hearing impairment in which damage occurs within the cochlea and/or the auditory nerve. This hearing loss is usually permanent.

Ototoxic drugs can also affect the balance which causes dizziness, unsteadiness and a general problem with stability.

These types of drugs are not prescribed that often and currently, only two of them are used which are:

  • aminoglycoside antibiotics
  • platinum-based drugs


Aminoglycoside antibiotics are prescribed for life-threatening bacterial conditions.

Platinum-based drugs such as carboplatin and cisplatin are used to treat cancer and are known as cytotoxic drugs.

Other drugs which cause hearing loss include:

  • Aspirin
  • Anti-malarial drugs
  • Diuretics

Aspirin is a very common drug which is used to treat a whole range of conditions such as headaches, period pain and muscular aches. It can also prevent the blood from clotting which reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

As long as the correct dosage is taken then side effects aren’t likely to occur but if this is exceeded then it can cause dizziness, nausea and tinnitus.

These side effects disappear once you stop taking this drug. Anti-malarial drugs are prescribed before, during and following a visit to a country where malaria is prevalent. They are effective but contain side effects which include headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sleep problems and tinnitus. Diuretics are drugs given to remove excess water from the body. They are usually prescribed for high blood pressure or oedema (fluid in the tissues of the body) and work by increasing the amount of urine produced by the kidneys. There is more than type of diuretic but one type only called ‘loop diuretics’ are considered to be ototoxic and result in hearing loss.

Hearing Loss

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