We rely on our senses to help us navigate the world—to read a book, hear a doorbell, or pick up the warning signs of a gas leak. But medication may impair or alter our senses.

For example, some 500,000 Americans face drug-related hearing loss each year. Up to 11 percent of those taking prescription drugs experience a reduced ability to detect flavors and food odors, or an unpleasant change in food taste. Hundreds of drugs can affect sight, some potentially permanently.

If you notice changes to your senses, tell your doctor. Reducing a dose or changing drugs may help, says Richard Doty, Ph.D., director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

For new medications, ask about potential side effects. You may need to get your eyes or ears checked regularly while taking certain drugs, says Frederick Fraunfelder, M.D., chairman of ophthalmology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. 

Check below for a list of some medications that can affect your senses.

Meds That Might Affect Hearing

Antibiotics: Amikacin, kanamycin, neomycin, streptomycin, tobramycin
Possible effect: Permanent hearing loss

Anticonvulsants: Valproic acid (Depakote and generic)
Possible effect: Tinnitus

Pain relievers: Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and generic), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, and generic)
Possible effects: Temporary tinnitus and hearing loss


Meds That Might Affect Vision

Alpha-blockers (for high blood pressure and enlarged prostate): Alfuzosin (Uroxatral and generic) and tamsulosin (Flomax and generic)
Possible effects: Blurred vision and eye pain; may affect cataract surgery

Antibiotics: Ciprofloxacin (Cipro and generic)
Possible effect: Double vision

Cholesterol drugs: Atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic), lovastatin (Mevacor and generic), simvastatin (Zocor and generic)
Possible effects: Double vision, cataracts

Corticosteroids (for allergies and autoimmune disorders): Prednisone
Possible effects: Cataracts, eye infection, glaucoma (with prolonged use), possible permanent optic-nerve damage

Erectile dysfunction drugs: Sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra)
Possible effects: Bluish tinted vision, blurred vision, light sensitivity

Osteoporosis drugs: Alendronate (Fosamax and generic), risedronate (Actonel and generic)
Possible effects: Blurred vision, conjunctivitis, light sensitivity


Meds That Might Affect Taste and/or Smell

ACE inhibitors (for high blood pressure and other heart problems): Benazepril (Lotensin and generic), captopril (Capoten and generic), enalapril (Vasotec and generic)
Possible effect: Diminished or altered taste

Antibiotics: Ampicillin, azithromycin (Zithromax and generic), ciprofloxacin (Cipro and generic), tetracyclines
Possible effects: Alteration or loss of taste and/or smell

Antifungals: Terbinafine (Lamisil and generic)
Possible effect: Possible loss of taste

Antihistamines and decongestants: Chlor-pheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton and generic), loratadine (Claritin and generic), and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed and generic)
Possible effect: Altered taste

Anxiety drugs: Alprazolam (Xanax and generic), buspirone, flurazepam
Possible effect: Altered taste

Beta-blockers (for high blood pressure): Betaxolol, propranolol (Inderal and generic)
Possible effect: Altered taste

Calcium channel blockers (for heart disease): Diltiazem (Cardizem and generic), nifedipine, nitroglycerin
Possible effect: Altered taste

Cholesterol drugs: Atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic), lovastatin (Mevacor and generic), and pravastatin (Pravachol and generic)
Possible effect: Diminished taste

Many other medications could also affect your senses. We’ve listed those that are most commonly prescribed or used.