Investigating the impact of chemotherapy drugs on young patients’ hearing

By Anne Riker Garlington
Brittney Moore
Brittney Moore

More than 200 medications are known to cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. A team of researchers, including University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions graduate student Brittney Moore, recently published a study that sheds new light on how a chemotherapy drug used to treat a variety of childhood cancers may affect the hearing of pediatric patients.

Moore, a student in the Doctor of Audiology program in the UF PHHP department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, and a team from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Children’s Hospital New Orleans evaluated the health records of both pediatric patients currently undergoing chemotherapy and pediatric cancer survivors up to 19 years following treatment completion.

In their study, which appears in the American Journal of Audiology, the team reports that more than 44% of late-effects patients treated with methotrexate, also known as MTX, had significant hearing loss. Among patients currently receiving treatment, 12% had significant hearing loss.

Due to the high incidence of hearing loss among patients with pediatric cancer, Moore and the other study authors recommend that audiologists should be part of the late-effects care team for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. In addition, “patients with pediatric cancer treated with MTX should receive routine long-term auditory monitoring as part of their standard of care to detect and manage hearing loss early, minimizing adverse outcomes,” the authors write.

Moore, who received her Master of Public Health in behavioral and community health science from Louisiana State University, discusses how she became involved in the study and how she hopes it may improve hearing health care for children undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

What is the potential impact of the study?

For other clinicians to understand the importance of children undergoing cancer treatment to obtain hearing evaluations early so they can receive intervention on a timely basis. This research study specifically recommends children treated with MTX have hearing tests to evaluate the potential late effects of MTX. It’s our hope that hearing tests are increased within this population to reduce negative effects of children having undetected hearing loss.

How did you get involved in this study?

When my program coordinator learned I was interested in pediatric audiology, she introduced me to geneticist Dr. Fern Tsien, the Assistant Dean for Medical Student Research at LSU Health School of Medicine. Dr. Tsien coordinated the study analyzing the late effects clinic where hearing loss can develop after cancer treatment. I was fascinated with the opportunity to be involved and assist with the research as I’ve always been interested in hearing loss for young children.

I’m currently completing clinical observation and training at the UF Health Hearing Center – The Oaks for the audiology program. Previously, I worked as newborn hearing screener in Louisiana hospitals.

What are your goals for the future?

I plan to graduate in spring 2026, but before then I would like to work on other clinical studies to have an influence on the lives of children with hearing loss. I really enjoy the patient interactions, as well as treating them and sharing information with their parents about processes to assist with their child’s hearing loss. My experiences with this study and similar clinical opportunities are ultimately what inspired me to pursue audiology.