Safety and efficacy of ebselen for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial

Lancet. 2017 Sep 2;390(10098):969-979. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31791-9. Epub 2017 Jul 14.


Background: Noise-induced hearing loss is a leading cause of occupational and recreational injury and disease, and a major determinant of age-related hearing loss. No therapeutic agent has been approved for the prevention or treatment of this disorder. In animal models, glutathione peroxidase 1 (GPx1) activity is reduced after acute noise exposure. Ebselen, a novel GPx1 mimic, has been shown to reduce both temporary and permanent noise-induced hearing loss in preclinical studies. We assessed the safety and efficacy of ebselen for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss in young adults in a phase 2 clinical trial.

Methods: In this single-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial, healthy adults aged 18-31 years were randomly assigned (1:1:1:1) at the University of Florida (Gainsville, FL, USA) to receive ebselen 200 mg, 400 mg, or 600 mg, or placebo orally twice daily for 4 days, beginning 2 days before a calibrated sound challenge (4 h of pre-recorded music delivered by insert earphones). Randomisation was done with an allocation sequence generated by an independent third party. The primary outcome was mean temporary threshold shift (TTS) at 4 kHz measured 15 min after the calibrated sound challenge by pure tone audiometry; a reduction of 50% in an ebselen dose group compared with the placebo group was judged to be clinically relevant. All participants who received the calibrated sound challenge and at least one dose of study drug were included in the efficacy analysis. All randomly assigned patients were included in the safety analysis. This trial is registered with, number NCT01444846.

Findings: Between Jan 11, 2013, and March 24, 2014, 83 participants were enrolled and randomly assigned to receive ebselen 200 mg (n=22), 400 mg (n=20), or 600 mg (n=21), or placebo (n=20). Two participants in the 200 mg ebselen group were discontinued from the study before the calibrated sound challenge because they no longer met the inclusion criteria; these participants were excluded from the efficacy analysis. Mean TTS at 4 kHz was 1·32 dB (SE 0·91) in the 400 mg ebselen group compared with 4·07 dB (0·90) in the placebo group, representing a significant reduction of 68% (difference -2·75 dB, 95% CI -4·54 to -0·97; p=0·0025). Compared with placebo, TTS at 4 kHz was non-significantly reduced by 21% in the 200 mg ebselen group (3·23 dB [SE 0·91] vs 4·07 dB [0·90] in the placebo group; difference -0·84 dB, 95% CI -2·63 to 0·94; p=0·3542) and by 7% in the 600 mg ebselen group (3·81 dB [0·90] vs 4·07 dB [0·90] in the placebo group; difference -0·27, 95% CI -2·03 to 1·50; p=0·7659). Ebselen treatment was well tolerated across all doses and no significant differences were seen in any haematological, serum chemistry, or radiological assessments between the ebselen groups and the placebo group.

Interpretation: Treatment with ebselen was safe and effective at a dose of 400 mg twice daily in preventing a noise-induced TTS. These data lend support to a role of GPx1 activity in acute noise-induced hearing loss.

Funding: Sound Pharmaceuticals.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Azoles / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Isoindoles
  • Male
  • Music
  • Organoselenium Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Azoles
  • Isoindoles
  • Organoselenium Compounds
  • ebselen

Associated data