An infection in the inner ear can cause serious hearing loss and other problems, and new research suggests it can happen even if healthy ear tissues are spared.
Researchers from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom were concerned after noticing that patients frequently experience hearing loss shortly after bacterial infections in the inner ear are finished. They thought the sufferers might also have developed auditory problems as a result.
After running blood tests on 66 healthy ears and a control group of 63 healthy ears, the researchers saw that those who had received the infection in the ear ear drum were more likely to be left- or right-digit deaf in their left and right ears, respectively. The team found that the severity of their impairments was more directly related to how their inner ear tissue responded to the infection.
“Our study showed that the severity of hearing loss in a number of patients may be directly linked to the spread of the infection to the epithelium—the cells which line the inner ear—and hence to their general health,” researcher Franck Ruessel, chair of biostatistics at Cardiff University, told The New York Times.
Auditory nerves in the ear can be sensitive to infections that don’t cause severe symptoms, he added. The disease eventually compromises hearing and can lead to hearing loss and speech impairment, the Cardiff researchers wrote in their paper published this week in The Lancet.
They noted that patients can alter their body’s immune response and slower recovery time from a viral infection could potentially cause a decline in health and impair hearing.
“It may be possible to develop clinical interventions to reduce the onset of hearing loss and other impairment that can result from this important course of viral infection,” Dr. Ruessel said.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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