Some Meds Can Cause Hearing, Balance Woes

You likely haven’t heard of ototoxicity, a common auditory and vestibular disorder.

In 1944, while discovering that a recently isolated antibiotic called streptomycin could wipe out tuberculosis, doctors learned that many of the patients who received the medication were left with irreversible cochlear and vestibular dysfunction.

It wasn’t the first time a medication had been found to cause such damaging side effects. A century earlier, doctors found that high levels of aspirin in the body can have a toxic effect on hearing.

Since those discoveries, more than 200 classes of drugs, including over-the-counter pain relievers, diuretics, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals used to treat heart disease and cancer have been found to cause hearing loss or damage to the structure of the inner ear.

Those effects are known clinically as ototoxicity or ear poisoning.

Kelly Breese, AuD, of Hearing Aids of Sarasota, worries that too many people are unaware that medications they are taking could cause ototoxicity and the dangers associated with it.

“This is a condition that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, disequilibrium and dizziness, and what concerns me is that many people don’t know that the medications they’re taking can cause this,” the audiologist says.

“Even people taking prescribed medications aren’t aware of the dangers because this is something they’re often not told about, not even by their doctors. The good news is, if ototoxicity is caught soon enough, the symptoms can sometimes be resolved.”

In some cases, symptoms cease naturally after use of the medication is terminated. In others, symptoms can be alleviated by simply altering the dosage.

The first step is defining the nature of the disorder. That is typically done by an audiologist testing a patient’s hearing to determine the nature and cause of the ototoxicity.

This is especially important for patients requiring medication to control diabetes, heart disease and cancer. For them, monitoring the ototoxicity throughout the course of treatment may be required to ensure they are not suffering unnecessarily.

“That’s also why it’s important for people to have a baseline hearing test,” Dr. Breese adds. “We can use that to gauge the impact, if any, that long-term medications might be having on their hearing.

“The problem is, not many people get baseline hearing tests. Most people don’t think to do that until they have a problem with their hearing. If possible, though, everyone should get an annual hearing test just the way you get an annual checkup or vision exam.

“That way, if something comes up and you have to start taking a medication for any reason and you later notice that you’re hearing or balance is affected, we can work with your doctor and make adjustments that will alleviate the problem.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. mkb
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    • Hearing Aids of Sarasota

      Hearing Aids of Sarasota want to be your anchor in all hearing healthcare needs. Dr. Kelly Breese will provide honest, caring, patient-centered, evidence-based, up-to-date treatment and education.... Read More

    • Kelly Breese, AuD

      Kelly Breese, AuD, is a board-certified doctor of audiology who specializes in the treatment of hearing loss and tinnitus. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 2011 and her doctorate degree from the University of A... Read More