Hard of Hearing with HIV

HIV patients may have higher risk of sudden hearing loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Many patients living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have reported having some type of hearing impairment. Up to now, it hasn’t been clear if these patients are actually at a higher risk for hearing loss.

A new study suggests there is a link.

Researchers examined the medical records of almost 9,000 HIV patients in Taiwan to look at their experiences with sudden hearing loss.

Younger adult HIV patients between the ages of 18 and 35 years old had a significantly higher risk of developing sudden hearing loss than patients in the same age group without HIV.

"Consult a physician if your hearing changes."

Charlene Lin, BS, of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues set out to study HIV patients’ risk of developing sudden hearing loss.

It is reported that 21 to 49 percent of patients living with HIV experience some form of hearing problems.

To carry out their study, the researchers examined health records from patients in the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database.

The database contains data on 23 million patients that had health claims between January 1, 1996 and December 31, 2010. This includes information about medications patients took, hospital stays and health conditions.

A total of 8,760 patients with HIV were identified by the researchers to be included in their study. Of these patients, 935 (10.7 percent) were female and 7,825 (89.3 percent) were male.

The researchers looked at the HIV patients’ records to find out if, how and when they had experienced hearing loss after their HIV diagnosis.

Patients living with HIV aged 18 to 35 years were 2.17 times more likely to have experienced sudden hearing loss in their life times than patients in that age group without HIV.

Within the 15 years of the study period, patients living with HIV had an average of 2.17 times higher chance of developing sudden hearing loss for the first time than patients without HIV.

This was especially true for men. When assessed alone, male HIV patients had a 2.23 times higher rate of experiencing sudden hearing loss for the first time than patients without HIV.

Patients living with HIV who were 36 or older did not have higher rates of sudden hearing loss than patients in their age group without HIV.

“The major finding in this study is that patients aged 18 to 35 years who were diagnosed as having HIV between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2006, had a substantially higher incidence of sudden sensorineural hearing loss than the general population without HIV,” wrote the authors.

The researchers noted other research that showed similar aging-related health issues among HIV patients. 

“We concur that HIV accelerates the biological aging of patients with HIV,” the authors wrote.

The study results, however, could not explain this link.

“The mechanisms that contribute to the association between HIV infection and the subsequent development of sudden sensorineural hearing loss remain unclear,” the authors wrote.

The researchers noted that other studies have suggested that sudden hearing loss might be caused by opportunistic infections or side affects of strong medications used to treat HIV symptoms.

If this is the case, they wrote, it is very important to improve the immunity of patients living with HIV through antiretroviral medication.

They also suggest increased HIV screening among people experiencing sudden hearing loss.

The study was published February 25 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The research was funded by the Chi Mei Medical Center research fund, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan. The authors report no potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 26, 2013
Last Updated:
March 1, 2013