An individualized, sensitive frequency range for early detection of ototoxicity

Ear Hear. 1999 Dec;20(6):497-505. doi: 10.1097/00003446-199912000-00005.


Objective: The aim of this study was to identify auditory frequencies at which serial threshold testing would provide the greatest sensitivity for early detection of ototoxicity. The overall objective is to develop a more time-efficient ototoxicity monitoring protocol.

Design: Threshold data were analyzed from 370 hospitalized patients treated with aminoglycoside antibiotics (AMGs) or cisplatin (CDDP) who received serial auditory monitoring before, during, and after treatment at conventional (0.25 to 8 kHz) and high (9 to 20 kHz) frequencies.

Results: For patients showing hearing changes due to ototoxicity, a frequency range was identified for its apparent high sensitivity to initial ototoxicity. This sensitive range is identified according to an individual's hearing threshold configuration, and is, therefore, unique for each patient. The range consists of five frequencies, generally separated by 1/6 octave, e.g., 8, 9, 10, 11.2, and 12.5 kHz. To determine frequencies and combinations of frequencies that were most often involved in ototoxicity detection, threshold data in the sensitive range were analyzed in detail. This analysis suggests that patients receiving treatment with AMG or CDDP can be monitored for hearing thresholds at only five frequencies, resulting in an 84% detection rate for AMG and 94% for CDDP compared with monitoring at all conventional and high frequencies.

Conclusions: This comprehensive analysis supports earlier observations that a sensitive, limited frequency range exists in which serial threshold monitoring will provide early warning of ototoxicity before effects in the speech frequency range. This finding is now being evaluated in a prospective investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Audiometry / methods
  • Auditory Threshold / drug effects
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / chemically induced*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Speech Perception / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents