Drug-Induced Ototoxicity: A Comprehensive Review and Reference Guide

Pharmacotherapy. 2020 Dec;40(12):1265-1275. doi: 10.1002/phar.2478. Epub 2020 Nov 18.


Objective: In an era of increasing polypharmacy, adverse drug effects such as ototoxicity have significant public health implications. Despite the availability of evidence, many health care professionals may not know the risk of ototoxicity in common medications. Therefore, the aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive, easy to use, ototoxic profile of medications with an assessment of supporting evidence.

Methods: Medications of interest were identified through adverse drug reaction reports derived from Micromedex (IBM), Lexicomp (Wolters Kluwer), and the textbook, Drug Induced Diseases: Prevention, Detection, and Management. Additional evidence was identified though a query of PubMed and the Cochrane database. Evidence of causality was graded according to the following: A (randomized, controlled clinical trials), B (nonrandomized clinical trials, prospective observational studies, cohort studies, retrospective studies, case-controlled studies, and/or postmarketing surveillance studies), and C (case reports/case series).

Results: A total of 194 systemically administered medications associated with ototoxicity were identified, most commonly antimicrobials (53), psychotropics (21), antihypertensive/antiarrhythmics (19), nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (18), and antineoplastics (16). There was evidence of cochleotoxicity in 165 medications (evidence grading A [22], B [77], C [69]), vestibulotoxicity in 100 medications (evidence grading A [23], B [47], and C [30]), and dizziness in 142 medications (evidence grading A [50], B [76], and C [16]). In addition, a review of the evidence of ototoxicity in ototopical medications is also reviewed.

Conclusion: The effect and severity of ototoxicity can vary immensely depending on pharmacological and individual patient risk factors. The intent of this comprehensive review was to help health care providers of all sectors obtain a deeper knowledge of drug-induced ototoxicity to make more informed management decisions for their patients.

Keywords: cochleotoxicity; drug-induced.; iatrogenic; ototoxicity; vestibulotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Hearing Loss / chemically induced*
  • Humans