Bilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss Associated With Nivolumab Therapy for Stage IV Malignant Melanoma

Ear Nose Throat J. 2021 Jun;100(3_suppl):286S-291S. doi: 10.1177/0145561320940847. Epub 2020 Jul 23.


Objectives: Present the case of a 67-year-old male with stage IV malignant melanoma who presented with uveitis and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) while on nivolumab and review the literature for likely etiologies.

Methods: A retrospective case review was conducted. The current literature was accessed to inquire about possible pathologic mechanisms and treatment options.

Results: A 67-year-old male with stage IV malignant melanoma was treated with nivolumab. During therapy, the patient presented with bilateral uveitis, vertigo, and bilateral moderate sloping to moderate-severe SNHL. After 4 cycles of nivolumab, restaging scans showed no evidence of disease. Nivolumab was discontinued. The patient was placed on a 3-week course of systemic high dose steroids and topical steroid eye drops. Both his uveitis and SNHL resolved after treatment. Nivolumab enhances the antitumor activity of T cells by inhibiting the programed death-1 receptor. While nivolumab has shown great promise in the treatment of many types of cancers, it has also been associated with many autoimmune side effects. We propose the etiology of this 67-year-old male's SNHL and uveitis are the result of an autoimmune process secondary to an augmented T cell response induced by nivolumab.

Conclusion: While immunotherapeutic agents such as nivolumab have shown great promise in the treatment of cancer, one should maintain an awareness and caution of autoimmune side effects such as uveitis and SNHL.

Keywords: immunotherapy; nivolumab; sudden sensorineural hearing loss; uveitis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects*
  • Hearing Loss, Bilateral / chemically induced*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects*
  • Ototoxicity / etiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Nivolumab