There are more than 450 prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can trigger tinnitus, make existing tinnitus worse, or cause a new tinnitus sound to appear. In fact, most drug classes have tinnitus-causing drugs sprinkled throughout. For example, antibiotics, painkillers, anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs, antimalarial medications, anti-cancer drugs, and blood pressure controlling medications – to name a few – can all trigger ringing in the ears. In most cases, this type of tinnitus is an acute, short-lived side effect; if the patient stops taking the medication, the symptoms typically recede. Familiarity with a complete list of ototoxic medications is unnecessary, but knowing which ones are known to cause more permanent tinnitus symptoms can save you a lot of frustration.
What Is an Ototoxic Drug?Ototoxic drugs are those medications that can cause damaging side effects to your ears. Such drugs can cause hearing loss, hyperacusis, tinnitus, and other phantom sounds and a whole host of balance problems. Although physician-prescribed medications may effectively treat a specific health condition, they can also damage the fragile hair cells in the inner ear, impacting a person’s ability to hear and balance.Tinnitus, of course, does not afflict everyone who takes drugs. Even if a drug’s description lists it as a side effect, it does not mean that you will develop it if you take it. Some people do. Many don’t. However, it is still important to learn the side effects of any drug you take. That way, you can react accordingly if you do develop a side effect.
List of Ototoxic MedicationsOtotoxic medications have a toxic effect on the ear or its nerve supply. Depending on the medication and dosage, the effects of ototoxic medications can be temporary or permanent. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) recognizes that the following ototoxic drugs may cause more permanent symptoms:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- Certain antibiotics, including aminoglycosides
- Certain cancer medications
- Water pills and diuretics
- Quinine-based medications
- Certain anticonvulsants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Antimalarial medications
- Blood pressure controlling medications
- Allergy medications
- Chemotherapy drugs, including cisplatin