Vancomycin ototoxicity: a reevaluation in an era of increasing doses

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2009 Feb;53(2):483-6. doi: 10.1128/AAC.01088-08. Epub 2008 Nov 10.


Nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity have historically been documented as relatively rare complications of vancomycin monotherapy. Recent reports have linked aggressive vancomycin dosing strategies to significant risks of nephrotoxicity. We evaluated the rate of high-frequency hearing loss detected by audiometry for patients on vancomycin therapy. For this purpose, we used retrospective case-control analysis of audiometry results for patients on vancomycin therapy for whom baseline and follow-up exams were available. Analysis of 89 patients for whom audiograms were performed after an average of 27 days of vancomycin therapy showed a 12% rate of high-frequency hearing loss, with a trend in univariate analysis toward a higher rate with advanced age. The mean of the highest vancomycin trough levels for both patients with worsening audiograms and those without worsening audiograms was 19 mg/liter. Regression tree modeling demonstrated that for patients <53 years old, the rate of high-frequency hearing loss detected by audiogram was 0%, while for patients >53 years old, the incidence was 19% (P = 0.008). We conclude that a significant rate of high-frequency hearing loss in older patients receiving vancomycin monotherapy was detected by audiometry. While these data urge caution against continued indiscriminate vancomycin dose escalation to treat infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus strains for which vancomycin MICs are 2 mg/liter, further prospective studies are needed to determine the clinical significance and reversibility of these effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Audiometry
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Hearing Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Hearing Disorders / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vancomycin / administration & dosage
  • Vancomycin / adverse effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Vancomycin