Ototoxicity / Can my Medication affect my Hearing
Are you or a loved one taking any prescription medications or supplemental nutrients? Can you name all your prescriptions including the dosage? Close to 40% of adults in the US take at least one prescription medication; this statistic rises to 90% for individuals 65 and older. The question is how knowledgeable are you regarding the prescriptions (and/or supplements) you are taking and are you familiar with the term ototoxicity? Prescription medication is often necessary. We all want to improve our health and increase our chances of living longer. No one wants to take a pill every day, but it is important to understand the medications you take. Certain medications are known to be “ototoxic”: “oto” meaning ear and “toxic” meaning damaging.
Ototoxic substances can cause damage to the inner ear, specifically to our sense of hearing and/or balance. These effects may be temporary or permanent depending on the ototoxic agent, duration of usage, dosage, and preexisting conditions of the individual. There are over 200 known prescription and over-the-counter ototoxic medications. Often ototoxic pharmaceuticals are prescribed to treat life-threatening conditions such as cancer or infection.
Symptoms of ototoxicity may occur rapidly or gradually after initial administration. Symptoms can include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, and balance disturbance. At the present time, nothing can be done to protect the inner ear from damage from ototoxic medications.
If you have concerns about your hearing or are taking ototoxic medications, you should speak with your physician. If possible, it is important to have your hearing tested before you take any medication that has known ototoxic side effects. This will provide a valuable baseline for your physician and audiologist.
Audiological monitoring can be very helpful for your physician in potentially altering necessary treatments as well as providing recommendations for treating any hearing or balance impairments. If tinnitus or hearing loss does occur an audiologist can help you to manage these conditions to reduce the overall impact it has on your quality of life and improve your communication abilities.