Most people are aware of the biggest danger for hearing loss: extended periods of time in loud environments without hearing protection. However, there are some less common sources which people should be aware of.
One possible source of hearing loss is ototoxic medications, drugs which can cause damage to the cochlea. There are a fairly large number of drugs which may be ototoxic, including common medications like NSAIDs.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These medications can begin to cause hearing damage at high daily dosages, but the damage is often reversed when usage stops.
Other medications include aminoglycoside antibiotics, some antidepressants, and some cancer treatment drugs.
Hearing loss from ototoxic medication usually begins with tinnitus, so it’s recommended that patients on potentially ototoxic drugs stay alert to ringing in the ears and contact their doctor quickly if it begins.
It’s important to remember that taking one of these medications is by no means a guarantee of hearing damage and damage is not always permanent if usage is stopped quickly (depending on the drug). In many cases, these drugs are the best or only option for a serious medical condition. Individuals should speak to their doctors about risks and what to do if they experience ringing in the ears.
If you are already dealing with hearing loss, it’s important to speak to your doctor about the potential for ototoxicity of any medications that are prescribed to you. If ototoxic medication is prescribed, it’s important to test your hearing before the course begins, and monitor with regular tests while you’re taking the medication.
And there’s hope for the future; scientists are currently researching methods of protecting patients from ototoxicity.