Vinpocetine for Antibiotic-Induced Hearing Loss
The antibiotics used typically for staph and strep infections are ototoxic: they can damage our hearing by increasing auditory thresholds. It is believed that this type of hearing loss is due, at least in part, to oxidative damage caused by the antibiotics. In a previous study, alpha-lipoic acid was found to alleviate the severity of this type of damage.1 Now, vinpocetine, an alkaloid phytonutrient and a sodium channel blocker (the sodium channel is a voltage-sensitive intracellular signaling mechanism) previously known to be helpful with tinnitus (ringing in the ears), has been found to help prevent some of the antibiotics' ototoxicity as well.2
Unfortunately, it doesn't take much of these antibiotics - drugs such as amikacin - to produce an undesirable effect. In an experiment with pigs, ototoxicity was rapidly produced with amikacin in just a few days. This type of damage is long-lived, if not permanent, and increases the delay, or latency, of hearing at relatively low frequencies. However, when vinpocetine was given following the amikacin for 13 days, the low-frequency hearing loss was prevented.
Moreover, the pigs treated with amikacin alone showed a decreased weight gain (not desirable for livestock) and a remarkably increased mortality rate in comparison with the pigs post-treated with vinpocetine. As a sodium channel blocker, vinpocetine is thought to prevent the voltage-overload damage to which the antibiotic-dosed patient is subjected.
- Conlon BJ, Aran JM, Erre JP, Smith DW. Attenuation of aminoglycoside-induced cochlear damage with the metabolic antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. Hear Res 1999 Feb;128(1-2):40-4.
- Nekrassov V, Sitges M. Vinpocetine protects from aminoglycoside antibiotic-induced hearing loss in guinea pig in vivo. Brain Res 2000 Jun 23;868(2):222-9.