Posted on Thursday, February 18, 2016

Preventing Antibiotic Related Hearing Loss


In 1928 Richard Flemming discovered penicillin, the first antibiotic. Since then a whole range of antibiotics have been developed to treat bacterial infections and generally make our lives easier. That's not to say antibiotics haven't created their own set of problems. Some antibiotics can cause permanent hearing loss. So how can you tell if your antibiotic could damage your hearing?

Antibiotics can be taken orally, topically, or through an injection. They're used to treat bacterial, for some parasites, and fungi infections, but they do nothing for viral infections. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk of antibiotic resistance bacteria and a call for doctors to prescribe them less, and as far as your ears go that might be a good thing. Antibiotics can cause hearing loss through ototoxicity or ear poisoning.

A big culprit of hearing loss, aminoglycosides, are a class of antibiotics from Streptomyces (look for the suffix mycin on your prescription) can cause permanent hearing loss in up to 25% of people. Here are a few aminoglycosides:

  • Azithromycin
  • Capreomycin
  • Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
  • Dihydrostreptomycin
  • Gentamicin
  • Kanamycin A
  • Erythromycin
  • Polymyxin B
  • Streptomycin
  • Tobramycin (Tobi)
  • Vancomycin (Vancocin)
  • The risk of permanent hearing loss increases if you are on a higher dose for a longer time or if you are on a combined antibiotic series. In addition to taking less antibiotics or avoiding them, there is hope for all of us who like our hearing and who occasionally do need to use antibiotics. The National Institutes of Health has awarded two million dollars to a startup that might have found a way to keep the good bacteria fighting properties of an antibiotic while eliminating any loss of hearing. The clinic trials are in the second phase. And according to Hearing Health Matters, "If proven successful, the new drug would be the first medicine to receive FDA-approval to protect the inner ear from permanent hearing loss caused by aminoglycoside antibiotics."

    Since there is still some time to wait before this new class of antibiotics become available, you can also try to take vitamins. There has been some research that showed beta carotene, vitamin C and E, and magnesium supplements help protect against the free radicals associated with ototoxic antibiotics. The video below explains in some detail.

    If you'd like to learn more about preventing hearing loss, please see your hearing health professional. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

    HHTM, "Biotech Startup Receives $2M NIH Grant for Drug Development to Prevent Antibiotic-Related Hearing Loss" Hearing Health Matters http://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearingnewswatch/2016/grant-prevent-hear... taken on Feb 18

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