Pharmacological rescue of noise induced hearing loss using N-acetylcysteine and acetyl-L-carnitine

Hear Res. 2007 Apr;226(1-2):104-13. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2006.08.008. Epub 2006 Oct 4.


Despite the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) and engineering changes designed to improve workspaces, noise-induced hearing loss continues to be one of the most common and expensive disabilities in the US military. Many service members suffer acoustic trauma due to improper use of HPDs, sound levels exceeding the protective capacity of the HPDs, or by unexpected, injurious exposures. In these cases, there is no definitive treatment for the hearing loss. This study investigated the use of the pharmacological agents N-acetylcysteine and acetyl-L-carnitine after acoustic trauma to treat cochlear injury. N-Acetylcysteine is an antioxidant and acetyl-L-carnitine a compound that maintains mitochondrial bio-energy and integrity. N-Acetylcysteine and acetyl-L-carnitine, respectively, significantly reduced permanent threshold shifts and hair cell loss compared to saline-treated animals when given 1 and 4 h post-noise exposure. It may be possible to obtain a greater therapeutic effect using these agents in combination or at higher doses or for a longer period of time to address the secondary oxidative events occurring 7-10 days after acute noise exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Auditory Threshold / drug effects
  • Chinchilla
  • Female
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / drug effects
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / pathology
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / drug therapy*
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / pathology
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Military Personnel
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Occupational Diseases / drug therapy


  • Antioxidants
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Acetylcysteine