Hearing Blog

Antibiotics Lead to Hearing Loss
Joshua Luekenga February 15, 2017

Antibiotics Lead to Hearing Loss

People often take medicines to help themselves feel better, but at what cost? A particular family of antibiotics known as Aminoglycoside has been known to lead to hearing loss with children being the most likely victims. These drugs are particularly used to address respiratory ailments and meningitis in those suffering who have cystic fibrosis, and premature babies in neonatal intensive care units. Antibiotics such as Gentamycin, Tobramycin, Kanamycin, and Streptomycin are included within this detrimental family. Approximately twenty to sixty percent of all the patients that have received some form of Aminoglycoside antibiotics go on to suffer from either partial or complete hearing damage.

A study conducted at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine experimented with administering a small dosage of Aminoglycoside on two separate groups of mice. Prior to the experiment it was noted that the first group of mice was completely healthy while the second group of mice had some form of inflammation infection. The results indicated that the first group of mice witnessed a mild case of hearing damage, while the second group developed severe hearing loss. The conclusions made by the researchers suggested that Aminoglycoside antibiotics were more dangerous for the hearing of those patients suffering from some form of inflammatory bacterial infections.

People may wonder how antibiotics can affect hearing. When a patient has a bacterial infection that creates inflammation within the body, the inner ear can also become inflamed as a result of the infection. Aminoglycoside is used to eliminate the infection no matter where it exists, thus when the cochlea and auditory nerve become inflamed, the sensory cells within the ear become damaged while the antibiotic works to heal the infection. Aminoglycoside is even more detrimental towards hearing when used in collaboration with diuretics.

Unfortunately, Aminoglycosides are commonly used. The American-Speech-Language-Hearing-Association claims that above two hundred ototoxic medications are available in markets today, even though they tend to be used for life-threatening infections only.

The alarming truth is that infants appear to be more susceptible to the use of ototoxic medication since they are often administered to address complications that arise at birth. It was found that 20,000 babies born prematurely were given these antibiotics each year in a study conducted in England. As a result, one in five hundred of those particular babies developed a genetic mutation that made them more vulnerable to aminoglycosides.

Hearing loss in infants can lead to severe problems later in life since it can block their language skills and hamper their social development which can lead to decreased chances of employment later in life.

Due to the severe adverse effects of these antibiotics, adequate steps are being taken to decrease clinical reliance on these types of medication. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed an improved variety of Aminoglycoside known as N1MS which has successfully been administered on mice with no reported hearing damage. This new medication works by preventing the drug from coming into direct contact with sensory hair cells within the ear, thereby eliminating the chances of any damage that would have been previously caused. However, this new medication is still undergoing tests before it is released in the market.

Since prevention is better than the cure, the researchers at the Institute of Child Health in England have requested that patients be screened for susceptibilities towards Aminoglycosides prior to its administration. This would not only prevent hearing loss, it would also save money since these medications cost approximately $70, which would help reduce the strain on subsidized healthcare programs funded by the government.

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