Ototoxicity: An often overlooked cause of hearing loss

While in the midst of a year-long bout with pneumonia that eventually left her with an incurable lung disease called bronchiectasis, Sherry Howard worried more about retaining her ability to breathe than retaining her ability to hear.

Under Dr. Duran’s care, Sherry Howard, who suffered hearing loss due to antibiotic treatment, continues to work and live a normal life.

A bout with pneumonia cost Sherry her perfect hearing. Hearing aids restored it

“You can live without your hearing, but you can’t live without your lungs,” Sherry reasoned at the time.

While that may be true, Sherry soon learned that as a result of the strong cocktail of antibiotics she was required to take to rid her of the pneumonia, her hearing would become greatly compromised as well. And for Sherry, that meant trouble.

“Hearing is rather critical for me because I work as a receptionist, answering the phone for a group of about one hundred doctors,” Sherry explains. “That’s why, when my doctor told me I was at a high risk for losing my hearing, I did everything he told me.”

One of the first things Sherry’s doctor told her to do was visit a hearing specialist and get a baseline hearing test. The hearing specialist Sherry’s doctor recommended was Drianis Duran, AuD, at Gulf Coast Audiology in Fort Myers.

“Our role was to monitor the stability of Sherry’s hearing while she was being treated, because some medications are ototoxic, meaning they’re toxic to the ear, specifically the cochlea, the auditory nerve and sometimes the balance nerve,” Dr. Duran reveals.

“This ototoxicity can result in hearing loss, ringing in the ears, even vertigo. In some cases, these side effects are reversible, but many are not. In those cases, we work with the person on their hearing loss through the use of hearing devices.”

Sudden Change

When Sherry first visited with Dr. Duran, her baseline hearing test showed she had near perfect hearing. A little more than a month later, however, Sherry didn’t need a test to know things had changed dramatically.

“I was in about the fifth or sixth week of this six-week IV antibiotic treatment that I was getting when all of a sudden, I just couldn’t hear,” Sherry says. “I wasn’t totally deaf. I still had some hearing, but everything was very muffled.”

The sudden loss of hearing prompted Sherry to reach out to Dr. Duran, who discovered during yet another examination that Sherry’s hearing loss was permanent. But Dr. Duran had some good news for Sherry, too.

“Sherry was very lucky in that she didn’t lose all of her hearing,” Dr. Duran says. “She still had a lot of residual hearing, and we were able to treat that with hearing aids once her antibiotic treatments were done.”

Sherry chose a pair of Phonak devices that rest behind the ear but contain a small receiver that fits inside the ear canal.

“I’ve had my hearing aids for about three years now, and they have been a godsend,” Sherry exudes. “If I didn’t have these hearing aids, I probably wouldn’t be able to work, but with them, I can carry on a very normal life.

“I feel very fortunate that I was sent to Dr. Duran. She’s fabulous and did a great job of helping me at a time when I was very, very sick. She came highly recommended, and I highly recommend her as well for anyone who has a hearing problem.”

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    • Gulf Coast Audiology

      Gulf Coast Audiology is owned and operated by Drianis Duran, AuD, a board-certified doctor of audiology. Gulf Coast Audiology offers the highest quality hearing aids, service, repairs, accessories and batteries. They also specialize in vestibul... Read More

    • Drianis Duran, AuD

      Drianis Duran, AuD, is a board-certified audiologist with clinical expertise in the areas of hearing loss and dizziness and balance disorders. She holds credentials from the American Board of Audiology, the American Academy of Audiology, the A... Read More