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Can Medication Cause Hearing Loss?

A female doctor holding a hearing medication tablet

Any drug that damages your auditory system is known as ototoxic and can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. The impact of those ototoxic medications depends on the dosage and length of use.

Common Ototoxic Medications

There are more than 600 drugs linked to hearing loss. Here are some of the most common.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Excessive use of drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen may exacerbate hearing loss and tinnitus. Over-the-counter pain relief medication reduces blood flow to your inner ear, damaging the delicate cells that send audio stimuli to your brain. You may be at an increased risk for hearing loss if you take those medications more than twice a week.


Also known as water pills, diuretics treat high blood pressure and fluid retention that results from heart failure, liver disease and kidney disease. Diuretics can expand the blood vessels in your ears and reduce blood flow to your cochlea. This type of medication also alters the fluid composition in your ear and affects the transmission of sound signals. Most hearing loss associated with diuretics is temporary and dissipates once you stop taking it.


Vicodin, oxycontin, fentanyl and morphine are opioids used to treat severe pain. They have been linked to hearing loss and balance problems. Opioids interact with your central nervous system, including your auditory cortex which is responsible for interpreting sounds. Long-term opioid use can alter neural pathways and change your auditory perception.

Antibiotics with Aminoglycosides

This type of antibiotic treats bacterial infections in bones and organs. Multiple doses of aminoglycosides have been known to result in rapid, profound hearing loss. The medication can damage cells in your inner ear, making it difficult to convert sound vibrations into electrical signals for your brain.

Some Chemotherapy Drugs

Cisplatin and carboplatin are platinum-based chemotherapy drugs that are associated with temporary and sometimes permanent hearing loss. Chemotherapy drugs can also damage your cochlea, auditory nerve and other components of your auditory system. Because chemotherapy is ototoxic, roughly 40-80% of patients experience significant hearing loss during early treatment.

Anti-Malarial Drugs

You could experience hearing loss and tinnitus if you take medications to treat malaria, such as quinine. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are similar drugs that are also prescribed for nocturnal leg cramps and lupus. Anti-malarial drugs alter the blood and oxygen flow to your ears, potentially damaging the delicate structures that help you hear. Most hearing loss is temporary, though long-term use of anti-malarial drugs may result in more severe symptoms.

What To Do If You Suspect Medication-Induced Hearing Loss

Talk with your primary care physician to determine if hearing loss is a potential side effect of your medications. It’s also important to get a comprehensive hearing test to establish a baseline for your hearing before you start taking anything. That allows your audiologist to track any deviations that may be caused by ototoxic drugs.

Take the following steps if you experience medication-induced hearing loss:

  • Stop taking the medication if it is safe to do so.
  • Contact your healthcare provider and audiologist to assess your hearing loss as soon as possible.
  • Provide a list of your current medication and a timeline of your symptoms.
  • Ask your doctor about alternative medication or decreased dosages.
  • Monitor your symptoms and schedule regular hearing tests to track your hearing loss.

Audiology in Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa

Our expert audiologists and staff are committed to providing you with the information and services you need to make educated decisions about your hearing health. We will review your medications with you to determine if any may affect your ability to hear. Contact us online or call 888-760-2032 to schedule your hearing assessment.