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Hearing management

Updated 29 November 2017

Certain antibiotics linked to hearing loss

Certain antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections can put you at greater risk of hearing loss, a new study suggests.

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A certain class of antibiotics used to treat deadly bacterial infections puts patients at high risk for hearing loss, research in mice suggests.

Newborns with life-threatening infections are often given these antibiotics, the researchers said.

Investigators focused on aminoglycoside antibiotics, which doctors rely on to treat meningitis, bacteraemia, and respiratory infections in cystic fibrosis patients. These drugs are known to damage the sensory cells in the inner ear that detect sound and motion.

Healthy mice given a low amount of an aminoglycoside developed a small degree of hearing loss. However, mice with an inflammation typical of the infections treated with aminoglycosides in humans had a much greater degree of hearing loss when they were given the antibiotics, the investigators found.

Inflammation from bacterial infections boosts the uptake of aminoglycosides into the inner ear, substantially increasing the risk of hearing loss, the study authors explained.

Their findings were published online July 29 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"Currently, it's accepted that the price that some patients have to pay for surviving a life-threatening bacterial infection is the loss of their ability to hear," Peter Steyger, professor of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said in a university news release.

"We must swiftly bring to clinics everywhere effective alternatives for treating life-threatening infections that do not sacrifice patients' ability to hear," he added.

Each year, about 80 percent of the 600,000 infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the United States receive aminoglycosides, the researchers said. The rate of hearing loss among NICU survivors is 2 to 4 percent, compared with 0.1 to 0.3 percent of full-term infants who have hearing loss due to birth defects, the authors reported.

"When infants lose their hearing, they begin a long and arduous process to learn to listen and speak. This can interfere with their educational trajectory and psychosocial development, all of which can have a dramatic impact on their future employability, income and quality of life," Steyger said.

To protect patients' hearing, doctors should consider other types of antibiotics to treat severe infections. Plus, researchers need to develop new types of aminoglycosides, the study authors suggested.

Read more:

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New clues to reversing hearing loss

Shocking things people do to remedy their ear problems

Image: Ear from Shutterstock

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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