Guarding against hearing loss from anti-cancer drugs



Some widely used therapeutic drugs have an unfortunate side effect of hearing loss. Two major classes of such “ototoxic” drugs are the aminoglycoside antibiotics and the anti-cancer drug cisplatin. These drugs save lives, but can also result in permanent hearing loss. New therapies are needed to protect the inner ear without inhibiting the therapeutic efficacy of the drugs themselves.


IRP researchers led by Lisa L. Cunningham, Ph.D., tested the hypothesis that the inner ear can be ‘conditioned’ by a mild stress that induces an intrinsic protective response, using moderate-level noise exposure. They exposed mice to a “conditioning” sound that was carefully calibrated to stress the inner ear without itself causing damage. The team then treated the mice with the ototoxic drug cisplatin and found that the conditioning noise protected against cisplatin-induced hearing loss.


The use of mild stresses to condition the inner ear holds promise as a therapy to prevent hearing loss in patients receiving ototoxic drugs, while not altering the lifesaving effects of the drugs themselves*.

*The researchers caution that treatment noise levels must be very carefully calibrated in order to avoid resulting in a noise-induced hearing loss, so it is important that patients do not expose themselves to noise in an effort to prevent ototoxic drug-induced hearing loss.


Roy S, Ryals MM, Botty A, Fitzgerald TS, Cunningham LL. (2013). Sound preconditioning therapy in mice inhibits ototoxic hearing loss. J Clin Invest. 123(11):4945-9.

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This page was last updated on Thursday, June 15, 2023