Five Japanese families showing aminoglycoside-induced hearing loss were genetically as well as clinically investigated. A mitochondrial mutation at nucleotide 1555 was found in 28 out of 32 subjects. One hundred American control subjects did not show any evidence of the mutation at nucleotide 1555, suggesting that the 1555 A-->G (A1555G) mitochondrial mutation may be found more frequently among populations in the Asian continent. Many subjects who harbor this mitochondrial mutation exhibit a mild, high-frequency, progressive hearing loss even without aminoglycoside injection. The results presented here appear to support the hypothesis that the A1555G mutation may play a more general role in causing hearing loss.