Does interferon beta-1a impact pure-tone hearing sensitivity among individuals with multiple sclerosis?

M. Samantha Lewis, Garnett P. McMillan, Michele Hutter, Robert L. Folmer, Debra Wilmington, Linda Casiana, Mary Fitzpatrick, David J. Lilly, Dennis Bourdette, Shannon Overs, Michelle Cameron, Stephen Fausti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Previous studies reported that particular types of interferon medications might contribute to hearing loss in some patients. The package insert included in the original Food and Drug Administration application for intramuscular interferon beta-1a (Avonex) stated that some patients in the treatment group reported decreased hearing sensitivity. Objective: The purpose of the present investigation was to assess if individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) taking intramuscular interferon beta-1a have significantly poorer hearing thresholds than those not currently using any disease-modifying therapies. Methods: This was a secondary analysis of data collected as part of two larger studies evaluating auditory function in patients with MS. The goal of this analysis was to determine if users of interferon beta-1a do not have significantly worse hearing thresholds than nonusers of disease-modifying therapies, after adjusting for potential confounders. A linear mixed model was fit to the audiometric thresholds of our subjects. This model included interferon beta-1a use, MS disease subtype, gender, test frequency, age, disease duration (number of years), and the Expanded Disability Status Scale score. Results and Conclusions: With all subjects included, there is insufficient evidence to say that intramuscular interferon-beta 1a is not ototoxic (in relation to nonuse of a disease-modifying therapy) at all frequencies tested except 3000 and 6000 Hz. After removing two influential subjects, the results indicated that there is statistical support for no ototoxic effect of intramuscular interferon beta-1a at test frequencies from 250 to 6000 Hz. There is insufficient evidence, however, to rule out an ototoxic effect at 8000 Hz. Future studies should further evaluate the effect of interferon on auditory function in patients with MS. Neuroscience nurses should monitor their patients' hearing throughout the course of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Adverse effects
  • Disease attributes
  • Hearing
  • Hearing loss
  • Interferon beta-1a
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Medical–Surgical


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