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Medication

The only type of hearing loss that can be treated by taking medication is hearing loss caused by an ear infection. Hearing loss occurs because fluid in the ear interferes with sound conduction. In this case, antibiotics are used to treat the infection. The hearing loss is corrected when the infection ends and fluid drains. Antibiotics can help eliminate the fluid or pus and restore the hearing. Nasal steroids and antihistamines may help if allergies are causing the fluid buildup or preventing the buildup from improving after an infection.

If hearing loss is caused by a buildup of ear wax, removing the wax restores hearing. The wax is loosened by putting a few drops of a softener, such as mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin, in your ear. Using a syringe, warm water is sent into the ear; the water comes out when you tilt your head. The doctor may need to do this process a few times before the wax comes out. Other ways of removing the wax after it is softened include scooping it with a special tool or using a suction device.

When hearing loss is caused by other medical conditions, it may be possible to improve hearing by treating those conditions. Examples include tumors and cardiovascular disease.

If your hearing loss may be caused or worsened by a medication, talk with your doctor about stopping that medication or changing to one that does not affect hearing. The most common medications that cause hearing loss are:

  • Streptomycin
  • Gentamicin
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Diuretics
  • Steroids
  • Heart medications
  • Anesthetics
  • Quinine
  • Aspirin-containing drugs
References:

Hearing loss. NIH SeniorHealth website. Available at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/hearingloss/hearinglossdefined/01.html. Accessed September 18, 2013.

Isaacson JE, Vora NM. Differential diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. Am Fam Physician. 2003;68:1125-1132.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.