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What are Ototoxic Medicines?

by Kate Scully, Audiology Expert
May 25, 2017

Question: What are ototoxic medicines and how can they damage the ear?

Answer: Ototoxic medicines/drugs are drugs whose side effects can damage your ears , especially your inner ears. "Oto" refers to ears and "toxic" is something poisonous so the term really means "ear poisoning".
These drugs can damage your cochlea/hearing system or vestibular/balance system or BOTH.
These drugs typically damage the hair cells, many causing permanent damage. Patients often lose hearing particularly in high frequencies, experience tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo and balance problems.  Word recognition scores can often decline after someone is treated with ototoxic medications such as with certain chemotherapeutic agents for example.

Kate Scully, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA is Director of Audiology at Hearing Center Silver Spring in Maryland. Her professional interests include hearing aids, adult diagnostics, assisted listening devices, otoacoustic emissions and ototoxic monitoring, hereditary/syndromic hearing loss, and newborn hearing assessments. Dr. Scully is licensed by the Maryland Board of Examiners for Audiologists. She is also nationally certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is a fellow of

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