- Published on 19 November 2015
US News Health takes a closer look at ototoxic medications and lists some of the commonly used active ingredients that are now known to potentially damage hearing.
Although the public is well aware that most drugs have side effects, especially given the long list of adverse reactions provided in package leaflets and television commercials that serve as a constant reminder, potential damage to hearing is not one of the better known risks. According to US News, more than 200 medications on the market today are known to be ototoxic.
Research has shown some risk of ototoxicity for certain very common over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) and ibuprofen, used as analgesics and antipyretics. For these substances, frequency of use seems to be associated with more severe outcomes. In men, taking one of the most broadly used drugs, aspirin, twice or more per week may involve a higher risk of hearing loss. This effect is however thought to be reversible on treatment discontinuation.
The aminoglycoside antibiotic class of drugs, which includes for instance gentamicin and tobramycin, is well known for toxic effects on hearing. Alternatives are often preferred because of the risk of cochleotoxicity, which occurs through molecular mechanisms that are still poorly understood but that may result in permanent hearing loss. Some chemotherapy drugs can also lead to hearing impairments but when dealing with potentially life-threatening conditions, the benefit/risk ratio is much more difficult to establish. Examples include cisplatin or carboplatin.
Source: US News Health
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