Medications and Conditions Most Likely to Impact Hearing Loss

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Medications and conditions that can impact hearing loss.

The ear is an extremely sensitive organ, and changes to overall health can affect hearing. While hearing loss occurs naturally with age, and can be impacted by external situations such as noise exposure or trauma, many people are unaware that hearing loss can also be caused or exacerbated by common health conditions or medications.

Smokers and those with high blood pressure may be more likely to develop hearing loss due to links between hearing and cardiovascular health. Other potential links to hearing loss include bruxism (clenching or grinding to the teeth) which can also lead to tinnitus (a high-pitched ringing in the ears.) Some people with diabetes and other common health conditions are also more prone to hearing loss, usually because of co-morbidities (diabetics may have higher blood pressure, etc.)

In the same way, certain medications that alter the body's natural balance, even correctively, can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, meaning if you are already at risk you should check with your doctor before starting a new medication (even an over the counter one) and assess your risks.The medications and treatments have been found to cause hearing loss in some patients and are considered ototoxic (which literally means damaging to your ears). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there are at least 200 medications which can affect hearing, and some of them may be in your medicine cabinet at home. If you are on medication and notice sudden or worsening symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus, or vertigo, you should talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a hearing care professional.

The most common ototoxic medications include:

  • Common painkillers known as NSAIDs, often sold over the counter, such as naproxen and ibuprofen (these are shown to be riskier for adult men than other demographics)
  • Large quantities of aspirin (typically amounts in or in excessive of 8 to 12 pills daily)
  • Quinine (a medication commonly found in muscle relaxants for night cramps, and also present in most malaria medications, making them a concern for travelers)
  • Loop diuretics (specialized diuretics normally intended to help with high blood pressure and heart problems)
  • Certain antibiotics known as aminoglycosides (which are usually employed to treat kidney disease)
  • Specific classes of antidepressants (including SSRIs and tricyclics)
  • Some types of chemotherapy drugs

It's important to note that in most cases the risk is lower than the risk of not taking a prescribed drug (such as a diuretic, antidepressant, or chemo) but it's best to be aware of potential issues and notify your doctor if hearing loss appears or becomes worse after starting a new medication or increasing the dose.

Plan to have regular hearing tests performed during any treatment or habitual ingestion of the drugs listed above, and notify your doctor of ototoxic over the counter drugs when being prescribed new medication. If hearing loss does occur and doesn't resolve, a hearing aid can be fitted to help diminish the effects of your hearing loss and restore your range of distinguishable sounds. Being fitted with a smart hearing aids is the first step toward restoring your hearing.

While hearing loss occurs naturally with age, and can be impacted by external situations such as noise exposure or trauma, many people are unaware that hearing loss can also be caused or exacerbated by common health conditions or medications.