Ototoxicity—damage to the inner ear hearing system caused by certain medications—is a massive problem amongst the hearing community. This damage can be permanent and can lead to tinnitus, dizziness and, yes, hearing loss. If people experience these problems, ototoxic medications can make symptoms worse.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association (ASHA) has labeled over 200 chemicals and medications that are ototoxic. These include antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, diuretics and regular old aspirin.
Gentamicin belongs to a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides, which is essentially not being made safe enough.
“Currently, the FDA’s instructions for how to make aminoglycosides are making people go deaf,” said Anthony Ricci, Ph.D., a professor of otolaryngology at the Stanford School of Medicine and senior author of the study. The team estimates that up to 20% of people who are treated with the old formula of gentamicin experience some type of irreversible hearing loss.
This predicament can be traced back to the low cost and efficiency of aminoglycosides. Used since the 1950s, aminoglycosides don’t need to be refrigerated, which keeps the cost of storing them down. The tradeoff is that while effective at saving lives, they are causing hearing loss.
Recently, however, a research team out of Stanford has completed a study that may offer hope to one day curb the dangerous effects of ototoxic medications, particularly regarding antibiotics. Their method? Simply purifying formulations of drugs to make them less ototoxic.
Focusing on gentamicin, a widely used antibiotic among U.S. hospitals to treat various bacterial infections, researchers found a relatively inexpensive way to reformulate the drug to make it much safer.
Ricci and his team discovered that by changing a specific subtype in the old formulation of gentamicin, they could make the drug less ototoxic, thereby potentially applying this method to other ototoxic drugs to make them safer.
Concerned you may have hearing loss caused by antibiotics or ototoxic drugs? Talk to the experts at Hearing Focused, LLC today to schedule a free hearing screening! (262) 679-8888.