Note: Please speak with your doctor before discontinuing or reducing your intake of any medication.
Often, hearing loss and tinnitus result from ear damage caused by ototoxic drugs. Painkillers, antibiotics, and antidepressants can, over time, lead to constant ear ringing, ear fullness, headaches, and hearing loss- symptoms of an ototoxic drug reaction.
“Ototoxic” means toxic to your ears
Following is an explanation ways in which ototoxic drugs impact hearing loss and tinnitus.
What are ototoxic drugs?
Ototoxic drugs are those that are toxic to the ear, or more specifically to the cochlea or vestibular structures within the ears. Hearing loss and/or tinnitus are potential side effects of using ototoxic drugs. The list of ototoxic medications includes antibiotics, some chemotherapy medications, salicylates, quinine, and loop diuretics.
The various ototoxic medications which have toxic effects on hearing do so in different ways. For instance, aminoglycosides seem to promote degeneration of hair cells and cochlear neurons. This, in turn, generates much free radical damage which leads to the destruction of hair cells and neurons. Without hair cells and neurons the ears cannot function and hearing loss will occur.
When do tinnitus and hearing loss occur?
Patients will usually develop symptoms of either hearing loss or tinnitus following the cessation of therapy. Ototoxicity-induced hearing loss tends to first manifest in the high frequencies and often causes tinnitus. It then progressively involves the lower frequencies and eventually affects speech recognition.
How antioxidants help tinnitus
Since free radical damage is central to lost hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular disturbances, it makes sense that taking antioxidants before being exposed to ototoxic medications will reduce the potential damage.
Antioxidants are chemical substances that convert free radicals into harmless molecules. In this way, antioxidants work to protect cells from the oxidative damage that leads to aging and disease, and can thus help sufferers of tinnitus. There are many forms of antioxidants and they can either be produced in the body or supplied by diet or supplements.
The body produces antioxidants in the form of enzymes, co-enzymes such as co-enzyme Q10 (C0Q10), and sulfur containing compounds such as glutathione. Antioxidants which come from our diet or from supplements are usually vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids.
A diet containing plenty of fresh produce is important for the intake of antioxidants. Some foods rich in antioxidants include beans, blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, blackberries, prunes, and raspberries. It is also a good idea to supplement one’s diet with a full-spectrum antioxidant compound to preserve energy and good health. This is especially true for those who are experiencing tinnitus.