Ototoxic Management

Audiologist explaining ototoxicity to their patient using a model of a human ear

What is Ototoxicity?

Ototoxicity refers to drug or chemical damage to the cochlea of the inner ear – which is the organ responsible for hearing. Ototoxic medications can damage the ear, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), dizziness or imbalance. There are more than 200 known ototoxic medications used to treat cancer, serious infections, heart disease, and other serious medical conditions. These medications are used carefully knowing that, while their use may provide the best hope for curing a life-threatening disease or illness, there is also the risk of causing damage to the ear.

Signs of Ototoxic Damage

Usually the first sign of ototoxicity is ringing in the ears, commonly called tinnitus. Tinnitus may also sound like a high pitched tone, a buzz, crickets, or running water.

Hearing loss is another sign of ototoxic damage and can happen slowly over time. It will often start with trouble hearing in background noise or it may sound like some people mumble. Balance problems can also occur as a result of exposure to ototoxic medications. This can feel like a general sense of imbalance, unsteadiness, or even lightheadedness. Sometimes the imbalance can be temporary but other times it can be long-lasting and life-altering.

Ideally, baseline hearing testing is performed before treatment with an ototoxic medication begins. This allows us to better understand the effect of the medication on hearing. If baseline testing is not performed, testing as soon as possible after the medication exposure occurs is recommended.

Each medication and treatment can have different aftercare and monitoring protocols. Therefore, seeing an audiologist who specializes in ototoxic evaluation, monitoring, and treatment ensures you receive the most appropriate aftercare and follow-up.

Hearing Evaluation Services offers an ototoxicity program based on best audiologic practices to ensure the most appropriate testing, treatment, and aftercare is provided to each individual. Most importantly, our program offers solutions to help people manage their tinnitus, hearing loss, and imbalance to improve their quality of life.

What to Expect

We believe in a team approach to providing hearing care for patients with ototoxic damage. As such, we will ensure that all the medical providers involved in your overall care are included in this process.

Audiologist speaking with a patient about a ototoxic management plan