A prospective study was performed on patients with active mucosal chronic otitis media who were being treated with the gentamicin-containing preparation Gentisone HC. In 27 patients plasma gentamicin levels were measured. Detectable levels were found in 7/27 (26%). Pre- and post-treatment audiometry was performed on 16 patients. There was no statistically significant difference in the change of the mean bone conduction thresholds as a result of treatment, between the treatment and control ears (P = 0.07, Wilcoxon signed Ranks Test at 95% C.I.). We conclude that there is evidence of systemic absorption of gentamicin that would ultimately be absorbed into the perilymph. Gentamicin is known to be ototoxic affecting the vestibular system in lower doses and the cochlea in high doses, hence audiometric assessment is not an appropriate screen for ototoxicity when using topical gentamicin-containing drops. Alternative topical preparations should be further investigated.