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New test in UK to prevent gentamicin induced hearing loss

gentamicin induced hearing loss
A new medical breakthrough could save thousands of babies from hearing loss.

An antibiotic called gentamicin can cause hearing loss when given to babies at signs of infection. Now there’s a fast test that will help prevent gentamicin-induced hearing loss.

Gentamicin Induced Hearing Loss

According to the Independent, if a newborn in the UK has even a suggestion of an infection, they are given an antibiotic called gentamicin. Statistically, this means that one in ten of every newborn is given the drug. This adds up to a staggering 90,000 babies per year. Also, the babies are given this drug if they need intensive care treatment or any form of surgery. Some babies have a genetic variant, which will result in gentamicin-induced hearing loss.


Genedrive, a Manchester-based firm, has recently made a serious breakthrough. They’ve come up with a simple test that determines whether gentamicin is safe to use. It involves a single cheek swab given to the baby. The swab is then placed in a handheld machine. Shortly after, about 25 minutes, the results are available.

Read more: Could a drug prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

Integrating into the NHS

During the next six months, hospitals in Manchester and Liverpool will undergo a study in which Genedrive’s test is given to 1,000 babies. The study is funded by the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) program and supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, in partnership with Manchester-based firm Genedrive and the charity Action on Hearing Loss.

Bill Newman, professor of Translational Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester and consultant at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust told HearingLikeMe more about the study.

“Every year over seven million babies worldwide are prescribed the antibiotic gentamicin as it is cheap and effective against infections,” Newman says. “One in 500 babies will carry a genetic variant which will lead to profound irreversible hearing loss in babies given this medication, approximately 14,000 babies worldwide each year. Previously genetic testing was not available quickly enough to determine if the antibiotic was safe or not. In the first study of its kind, we are working to deliver point of care genetic testing, from a cheek swab providing an accurate answer in 25 minutes.”

Newman also mentions that the study began in January and the results of the study will be available later this year.

“We have shown that this test works,” Newman says. “Now we are seeing if we can integrate it into the NHS.”

“We have shown that this test works. Now we are seeing if we can integrate it into the NHS.”

Major Implications

Newman told the Independent also says successful implementation of this technology across the UK could save an estimated 180 babies a year from profound hearing loss. It could also save the NHS an estimated five million Great Britain Pounds (GBP) a year in cochlear implantations and other hospital costs.

Note: Due to present circumstances with NHS now fighting coronavirus, things may take a little longer.

Newly diagnosis babies with hearing loss

As this new technology will take time to be implemented, what do parents of newly diagnosed children need to know about hearing loss?

HearingLikeMe writer, Beth Leipholtz shares tips for parents who are new to the world of hearing loss.

“As a parent new to the world of my child’s hearing loss, I have learned a few tips for parents new to hearing loss, to make the adjustment to a new situation easier,” says Leipholtz.

She recommends the following:

1) Give yourself permission to feel what you feel

2) Educate yourself

3) Connect with others going through similar situations

4) Become an advocate

5) Be open-minded 

Read more: Tips for parents new to hearing loss

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)