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HIV and hearing loss

Aug 23, 2007

Is there any scientific evidence that HIV infection can cause hearing loss? I was diagnosed hiv+ in 1986 and have been asymptomatic ever since. However, about five years ago my hearing started to deteriorate and has progressively become worse to the present situation where my hearing loss is severe to profound. I started with ARVs about 4 years ago (after hearing loss started) when my cd4 count hovered around 250/300 with a high viral load and I was not feeling too well. I have responded very well to treatment from the beginning with cd4 above 900 and undetectable viral load. My hearing loss is of a sesorineural nature and neurological nerve conduction tests suggest a lesion in my hearing nerve. Could this have been caused by HIV and since my hearing continues to deteriorate, could ARVs be potentially ototoxic? I am 52 years old.

Response from Dr. Horwath

There have been several reports that suggest that sensorineural hearing loss occurs in 21 to 49% of HIV-infected patients. The type of hearing loss in HIV patients tends to be high frequency hearing loss. This type of hearing loss does not interfere with speech recognition. HIV infection of the brain or auditory nerve may be a contrbutor to this type of hearing loss. In general, the antiretrovirals are not ototoxic.

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