Background Fabry disease is an X-linked lysosomal storage disorder characterized by multi-organ dysfunction, including hearing loss – mainly sensorineural. The recent introduction of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) has resulted in improvements in renal and cardiac function, pain and quality of life. One study has also suggested small improvements in high-frequency hearing. In this paper, we study the effect of ERT on hearing in patients in the Europe-wide database – the Fabry Outcome Survey (FOS).
Materials and methods Twenty-six patients in FOS had pure-tone audiometry performed up to 6 months before starting ERT with agalsidase alpha and after a median of 12 months of treatment. We assessed changes in hearing thresholds, expressed as deviations from the 50th centile of the normal population (International Organization for Standardization ISO 7029) to correct for age-related non-specific hearing deterioration.
Results Hearing did not change significantly in ears with normal hearing (less than 10 dB deviation from the 50th centile of ISO 7029) or those with severe hearing loss (more than 40 dB deviation from the 50th centile of ISO 7029) at baseline. In ears with a mild or moderate hearing loss at baseline, hearing thresholds, expressed as deviations from the normal 50th centile, improved significantly by 4–7 dB at most frequencies (P < 0·05).
Conclusions Agalsidase alpha stabilizes, and possibly improves, hearing in Fabry patients who have not already progressed to severe hearing loss. Further follow-up of these patients will determine the longer-term effects of ERT.