Long-term vancomycin use had low risk of ototoxicity

PLoS One. 2019 Nov 6;14(11):e0224561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224561. eCollection 2019.


Background: Vancomycin is a commonly used antibiotic with potent activity against Gram-positive organisms, but prolonged use and high doses can lead to toxicity. While vancomycin-associated nephrotoxicity is widely reported, few cases of ototoxicity have been described. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of negative changes in audiograms in patients receiving long-term intravenous (IV) vancomycin and to identify high-risk patients who need audiogram monitoring.

Methods: This was an IRB approved, cross-sectional study performed at an academic medical center from 1/2012-3/2019. Patients who were prescribed IV vancomycin for ≥ 14 days and had baseline and follow-up weekly audiometry were included. All data was extracted from the electronic medical record. The primary endpoint was worsening audiogram while on vancomycin. Descriptive and bivariate statistics were used to describe the patient population.

Results: 424 patients were screened for inclusion; 92 received at least two audiograms while on vancomycin. Fifty-three percent of patients were men, the median (IQR) patient age was 44 (34-58) years, and 8% of patients had an estimated Cockcroft-Gault creatinine clearance ≤ 30 mL/min or received hemodialysis. The median (IQR) vancomycin exposure up until the last recorded audiogram was 30 (17-42) days. Vancomycin indications were: 53 (58%) bone and joint infections, 17 (18%) infective endocarditis, 10 (11%) bacteremia, 12 (13%) other infections. Seven (8%) patients experienced a worsening change in hearing from baseline, two (2%) of them suffered mild loss, two (2%) had mild to moderate loss, and three (3%) developed moderate-to-severe hearing loss. In bivariate analyses, no variables were found to be associated with a worsening change in audiogram, including baseline abnormal audiogram, age ≥ 40 years, elevated serum vancomycin levels, or vancomycin doses ≥ 4 grams/day.

Conclusions: The prevalence of negative changes in audiograms among patients receiving long-term intravenous vancomycin was low. The utility of routine audiogram testing in this population remains questionable except in high-risk patients; however, larger prospective studies with controls may be warranted to further explore the risk of ototoxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Audiometry / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hearing Loss / chemically induced
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ototoxicity / diagnosis
  • Ototoxicity / epidemiology*
  • Ototoxicity / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vancomycin / adverse effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Vancomycin

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.