Drugs as a Cause of Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)

According to the British Tinnitus Association (BTA), few drugs are ototoxic (damaging to the ear) and those are toxic only when obtained in high doses that we, as patients, are unlikely to encounter. (The exception would be some cytotoxic (toxic to cells) drugs used to treat cancer.)

Aspirin, taken at very high doses that with today’s array of medicines is rarely prescribed, may cause tinnitus until the dosage is reduced.

Commonly implicated are streptomycin and gentamicin, aminoglycosides in prescription ear drops, and diuretics, but none at dose levels commonly prescribed.

Quinine taken at levels required to treat malaria may cause permanent damage but at taken levels used to prevent malaria is not a problem. (I really like Quinine Water! I wonder if it’s exacerbated my tinnitus.)

So why are there so many drugs implicated as ototoxic?

In Britain, whenever a patient reports to her doctor the onset tinnitus with a course of medication, the doctor must report it to the Committee on Safety of Medicines. It takes only one report to add a drug to the list.

Tinnitus is common and medical treatment is stressful, so with stress as a well recognized trigger for tinnitus, one might expect that at some point every drug would be on that list.

Another non-worry seems to be recreational drugs—you don’t need to be concerned that marijuana is exacerbating your tinnitus.

Some patients do have idiosyncratic (individual) reactions to drugs. If you suspect you are one, consult your physician.

Source: Drugs, Food and Drink a white paper written by Don McFerran FRCS, Consultant Otolaryngologist Essex County Hospital Colchester, for the British Tinnitus Association, February 2005.

One smashing comment for this post.

  1. Dominika Said:

    Guys, please help me. I think I’m ready to just give in on life. In the past 5 months, I’ve taken about 9 unprotected shots of .40SW, and just this past Wednesday, another 3 unprotected shots of .380ACP. Thursday night I did some reading, and now have discovered a high frequency ringing, almost whine in my ears, but very quiet, if that makes sense. I’m scared to death I have tinnitus, although half the time I think I’m imagining it. I’m only 20 years old. I do not want this for life! I may have listened to loud music on a few occasions, but I never made it a habit. My mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery. Seeing her in a hospital bed wrecks havoc on me. I have stress so bad that I have physical pain in my jaw, and a constant pain in my forehead. Please give me SOME hopeful news about my ears, because I cannot take this another week. I’m making an appointment with an ear specialist this week, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to get in. I honestly believe if I find out I’ll have this Tinnitus forever, I’ll end it by killing myself. God Bless whoever responds to this post, It would means more than you can ever imagine.

    Rosalie responds: By the time you read this, you’ll probably have seen the ear specialist. I have no idea what you mean by your “unprotected shots,” however, do not despair! I’m betting that the ear specialist told you the tinnitus is temporary and you’ll feel better when you’re not so stressed. I’m guessing that your tinnitus has nothing to do with your ears, per se, but it’s more like an alarm bell going off in your head–that might be why sometimes you think it’s just your imagination. Your stress is real and the “alarm bell” is ringing you to action–make that action Getting Help. You might be able to find a support group for people with a family member undergoing breast cancer treatment. You might visit your regular doctor. In the mean time, take a walk outside, just around the block will do. Seriously! You’ll feel better immediately.

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Health Tip
People with tinnitus are found to have lower levels of zinc and B-12. Get yours in a B-Complex plus Zinc and Vitamin C
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Health Tip
Hyper-thyroid can cause tinnitus, even before a hormone imbalance is detected. Vitamin D helps your body regulate thyroid. Get it naturally from
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