by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady asked,
Just curious. When the doctor prescribes prescriptions, should I ask if this is an ototoxic medication and whether there is a substitute that works just as well? I want to be more prepared in the future.
It’s a great idea to be prepared beforehand. If there is another medication that does the same job and is not ototoxic, I’d go for it. (Of course, you want to check out all the side effects of any drug you are considering taking, not just the side effects that affect your ears. After all, you have to live with your whole body. Thus, you need to choose a drug whose side effects are minimal on your ears and the rest of your body.)
However, I sincerely doubt many doctors will even know if the drugs they prescribe are ototoxic. Actually, since 83% of the commonly prescribed drugs are ototoxic one way or another, your chances of not having an ototoxic drug prescribed are quite slim.
You really need to know ahead of time what the specific ototoxic properties of any drug are, and what the risk likely will be—then decide if you want to accept that risk given the circumstances you find yourself in at that time.
The easy way to be prepared is to refer to “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed“. This book lists all the known ototoxic drugs at the time of printing, the ototoxic properties of each drug, the likelihood of an ototoxic event occurring (if known), how serious it could be if it does occur and a general risk assessment factor for that drug.
Based on this information, you can then make a more informed decision as to whether to take a given drug or not.
Then, if you choose to take a drug, you’ll already know what ototoxic side effects to watch for. If any of these side effects begin to occur, you can immediately stop taking the drug (and contact your doctor) while you reassess your position. If you don’t detect any ototoxic side effects, then you can probably safely take that drug and not damage your ears.
Remember that just because a drug is listed as being ototoxic doesn’t mean you will get those ototoxic side effects when you take it. In fact, many people won’t get any side effects. However, a number will. Since you don’t know which group you’ll end up in, you want to be as prepared as you can be ahead of time.