by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” This was one of the slogans I heard repeatedly in one multi-level company I was once a part of. The meaning is clear. If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen yourself. Don’t expect someone else to do it.
What does this have to do with ototoxic drugs? Simply this. If you want to protect your ears from the ravages of ototoxic drugs, you have to be eternally vigilant. This means you have to become informed on the side effects of drugs before your doctor prescribes them for you.
One good source (I like to think it is the best source—but then I’m biased since I wrote it) of ototoxic drug information is the book Ototoxic Drugs Exposed.” If you take the time to look up any drugs your doctor wants to prescribe for you, you will know the risks to your ears from taking that drug. Then you and your doctor can mutually decide what treatment may work the best for you while still protecting your ears. If your doctor brushes you off, maybe its time to find a good doctor—one that is willing to work with you to save your hearing.
In the January issue of Hearing Loss Help eZine, a man told about his experiences with Ciprofloxacin. This was before he knew anything about ototoxic drugs. In fact, this is what prompted him to search for some answers in the first place! Subsequently, he bought Ototoxic Drugs Exposed“. Now he is advocating for himself. You would do well to “take a page out of his book” as it applies to your situation.
After reading the eZine article “Tobramycin, Tinnitus and Hearing Loss,” in the February edition, he wrote:
I read with interest your piece regarding the lady who was prescribed Augmentin and Tobradex [Tobramycin] for conjunctivitis. My own experience with Augmentin is consistent with your statement that it is not ototoxic. Having been prescribed Augmentin Forte for tonsillitis recently, I was extremely happy to not only find it absent from your book, but also to confirm that it had absolutely no detectable ototoxic effects whatsoever. It was actually wonderful to find there are antibiotic drugs out there that are not ototoxic. [Update: This last statement is no longer true. Amoxicillin (Augmentin) has now been found to be somewhat ototoxic.]
Rather amusingly, whilst the drug did little for my tonsillitis, I did discover that it is a prostatitis “wonder drug”. I don’t know if this drug is prescribed for prostatitis specifically, but it worked far better, and just as quickly, as the severely ototoxic Ciprofloxacin that I took 6 months ago. By the way, that drug did not just give me severe tinnitus—it also caused severe insomnia and I felt the urge to physically destroy my house and run out onto the road in front of a truck. (I wonder how long this drug will be on the market before it is removed? It’s the devil and I will never forgive my doctor for requiring me to continue with the full course when I reported these side effects to him after only two days).
I really think a lot needs to be done to educate doctors about ototoxicity. I felt rather insulted when, after I reported to my doctor that all these side effects had settled down after finishing the Ciprofloxacin course, he more or less said that it did not mean anything.
So a person lives for 40 years with absolutely no history of insomnia, tinnitus or psychotic behavior, then gets all complaints within 1 to 4 days of starting on the drug. It does not seem to be rocket science to me, but then again whenever did a doctor admit to making a prescribing error of judgment?
It does not help that the prescribing information for Australian doctors often does not list the ototoxic side-effects of drugs at all. Did you know, for example, that tinnitus is not listed as a potential side effect for the drug Ciproxen (Ciprofloxacin) in Australia? I confirmed this with the doctor myself. But that is no excuse for my doctor. He should have taken me off the drug as soon as I had reported the side effects. It was clear there were alternatives that would have worked just as well.
In any case, I am currently in the process of changing doctors. In the end it all hinges around ototoxicity issues. These issues are at the absolute forefront of my mind whenever I am consulting with a doctor. The Ciproxen episode is just part of the reason for looking for a new doctor.
Since the Ciproxen episode, every time I have been prescribed something, I have asked the doctor about it’s potential ototoxicity in light of the Ciproxen episode (admittedly I already knew the answers thanks to your book—I was simply testing his reaction, since he has absolutely no idea that I have your book, or have any knowledge whatsoever on the subject). Not only does he not really care, but it is pretty clear what is going through his mind (“When will this patient shut up about ototoxicity!!??”). Oh—and the second thing he is thinking: “I wouldn’t have the faintest idea if this drug is ototoxic or not”. Having since been on the receiving end of two other ototoxic drugs, one of which also proved to be ototoxic to me, I think it is time to look for a new doctor.
The very last straw was a visit to a urologist on Friday regarding my prostate issues. Having been bombarded with antibiotics for 6 out of the last 8 months, this doctor wanted to give me two more antibiotics—concurrently—and both listed in your book! This, in addition to thousands of dollars of tests, some of which carry the risk of side effects that might require even more ototoxic antibiotics. My problems would have to be much worse than they are now for me to submit to this. I was rather hoping that as my symptoms have generally begun to subside, it makes much better sense to first consider non-drug therapy, or at least a little more watchful waiting.
So next week I make a fresh start with a new doctor who hopefully will be a little more empathetic to those patients who are actually educated on the issue of ototoxicity.
You would do well to heed this man’s warning. His is the voice of experience. Since you obviously can’t rely on doctors to tell you all about the ototoxic side effects of the drugs they prescribe, you have to become an informed patient yourself. Remember, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”
One way to do this is to check out any drugs you take in Ototoxic Drugs Exposed. This book contains information on the ototoxicity of 877 drugs known to damage ears.