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Ototoxicity is drug or chemical damage to the inner ear. This section of the ear contains both the hearing mechanism and the vestibulocochlear nerve, the nerve that sends hearing and balance information to the brain. Because of this, ototoxic drugs may cause lack of hearing, and loss of sense of balance.

The extent of ototoxicity varies with the drug, the dose, and other conditions. In some cases, there is full recovery after the drug has been discontinued. In other cases, the extent of damage is limited, and may even be too small to be noticed. This may occur in highfrequency hearing loss, where the damage to the ear makes it difficult to hear high pitched musical notes, but does not affect the ability to hear the spoken word, or carry on a conversation. In extreme cases, there may be permanent and complete deafness.

Although ototoxicity is undesirable, the ear damage can actually be used to help people with Ménière's disease. This is a disease of no known cause that is marked by sudden episodes of dizziness and vertigo. Other symptoms include a feeling of "fullness" in the ears, roaring in the ears, and ringing in the ears. While most people with this condition can be controlled with medication, about 10% require surgery. However, use of some ototoxic drugs can actually improve this condition, while causing less damage to the hearing mechanism than traditional treatments.

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