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Antibiotics and Hearing Loss – Researchers found Aspirin can help in preventing Hearing Loss when taking Aminoglycosides

April 26th, 2006

Antibiotics and Hearing Loss – Researchers found Aspirin can help in preventing Hearing Loss when taking Aminoglycosides


The antibiotic called aminoglycosides are an inexpensive treatment for acute infections such as tuberculosis and for treatment of cystic fibrosis patients as well as other conditions.  This type of antibiotic has been used for over 60 years, but one of the side effects of taking this medication is irreversible hearing loss.

Researchers from the University of Michigan’s Kresge Hearing Research Institute along with Chinese colleagues studied how hearing could be preserved while taking the antibiotic by taking aspirin with the medication.  The complete study has been published in the April 27th, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


The study took place in China, where 195 patients received intravenously 80 – 160 milligrams of gentamicin.  Gentamicin is a type of aminoglycoside.  The patients typically received 2 doses of medicine each day for a duration typically ranging from 5 – 7 days.  They gave 89 of these patients getting the antibiotic aspirin with the antibiotic.  The other 106 patients were given a placebo with the antibiotic.  The patients that had taken a placebo had 13% developing hearing loss, while the patients that had taken aspirin with the antibiotic only had 3% developing hearing loss.


"We would like to see the word get around to the medical community around the world that you can take some precautions to minimize the risk to your patients. Aspirin is available everywhere, and it's cheap," says senior author Schacht, professor of biological chemistry in otolaryngology at the University of Michigan Medical School and director of the U-M Health System's Kresge Hearing Research Institute.

Gentamicin is not commonly used in the United States.  This research would be the most helpful in developing countries where aminoglycosides are used more often because they are inexpensive to use and are sold over the counter.

Schacht said that even though the research shows benefit of preserving hearing, some practitioners may not recommend aspirin as this would be an off-label use.  Aspirin could have a side effect of gastric bleeding.  He wants to conduct more research with potential drugs that could be combined with gentamicin that would have fewer side effects than aspirin.

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