Are your medications causing hearing loss?


When you’re sick, medicine can seem like your best friend. It relieves pain and helps illness pass quickly. But before you pop that pill, you might want to consider the side effects. Sometimes treating one condition, like a headache, can lead to a worse one, like hearing loss. When taking medication causes hearing loss it’s called ototoxicity also known as ear poisoning. (Apparently Hamlet’s father wasn’t the only one in danger of ear poisoning.) But in this case, the poison isn’t lethal. Or even poison. Common medications like NSAIDS, antidepressants and even antibiotics can cause mild to severe hearing loss.

Ototoxicity caused by medications can be temporary or (sad face) permanent. It usually involves both ears (bilateral) but can happen in just one ear (unilateral). Ototoxicity can happen fairly quickly or slowly with prolonged use of certain medications. So how can you tell if your medicine is causing hearing issues? Well in adults common signs of ototoxicity include fullness in the ears, vertigo, tinnitus, inability to tolerate head movement and inability to hear consonants like T, S, F and Z. Here are some of the more common ototoxic culprits to look out for:

  • Antibiotics – Erythromycin, Aminoglycosides: Kanamycin, Neomycin, Gentamycin, Netilmicin, Streptomycin when used intravenously, Vancomycin: Vancocin, Erythromycin: Ery-Tab, E-Mycin
  • Antidepressants – Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Luvox
  • Aspirin – 6-8 pills per day have been shown to cause issues with hearing
  • Chemotherapy medications – Cisplatin, Vincristine. Many doctors now realize the high incidence of hearing loss associated with chemo and can recommend steps to lessen the likelihood.
  • Loop diuretics – Lasix, Edecrin. Loop diuretics can be toxic to your body when given intravenously or taken in very high doses orally.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) – Advil, Aleve, Anaprox, Clinoril, Feldene, Indocin, Lodine and Motrin. NSAIDS have been shown to affect hearing when taken as little as twice a week. People who are under sixty are much more likely to be affected.
  • Radiation therapy—People who have radiation for head or neck cancer are at the greatest risk of ototoxicity. Obviously life-saving radiation shouldn’t be avoided to prevent hearing loss, but you can ask your doctor about the use of using sodium thiosolfate after treatment as it’s thought to protect against hearing loss.

Higher doses of medication, combining medications and longer treatment times can all add to the likelihood of hearing problems. Everyone is susceptible to ototoxicity, but children, adults under sixty for NSAIDS, adults over sixty for other medications and anyone who has a history of ear problems are at greater risk. Basically, if you have ears you may be at risk.

Hearing loss due to ototoxicity isn’t something to be brushed aside. If you experience hearing loss when taking medication, make sure to discuss it with your physician. Hearing is essential for your brain’s health. But don’t stop taking medications without discussing alternatives with your physician first.

Below are some natural suggestions for the common problem of headaches you can discuss with your doctor.

Natural cures for headaches

The first thing to do with any headache, as long as it’s not severe enough to cause vomiting, is to drink water. Dehydration causes a lot of headaches and even plays a role in migraines. Water isn’t the only way to help. Tomatoes and bananas can help with electrolyte imbalance. Lemon water or lemon coconut water can also ease headaches due to dehydration.

Lavender, peppermint or basil oil used in a mister can help alleviate headaches. Any herbal tea with feverfew and lemon grass can help too. Also feverfew by itself in pill form or leaf form has long been known as a successful headache cure.

For prevention, since a lot of headaches come from stress, high doses of B6 should help. Some headaches can also be caused by inflammation, and if you think this is the culprit, a diet rich in Omega 3’s wouldn’t hurt. If you want a quick shot of Omega 3 to help with that headache, try fish oil or flaxseed. A bioflavonoid called rutin is also thought to help with headaches and can be found in buckwheat (yum), eucalyptus and hawthorne. Ask your physician or pharmacist before selecting a supplement to make sure it doesn’t interfere with anything else you may already be taking.

Note: If you have recurring headaches you might want to rule out things like sinus problems, problems with your back, neck or shoulders or problems with your eyes or teeth. Treating a headache and not another underlying condition isn’t going to help long term.

If you know of any other natural remedies for a headache, we’d love to hear about it! And if you think you’ve experienced hearing loss due to ototoxicity don’t wait, see your hearing health professional today. Need help finding a hearing care professional? No worries, that’s why we’re here.

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