People living with HIV likely to have problems hearing

05 January 2015
An HIV ribbon

A new study has found that adults living with HIV have poorer hearing than adults not infected with this virus. HIV affects the auditory portion of the inner ear, meaning low and high frequencies may not be heard. As a result, adults living with HIV may experience difficulties hearing and understanding speech, due to the low frequency sounds of vowels and consonants – and particularly in the English language.

The study tested the hearing of 262 men and 134 women, average ages 57 and 48 respectively. Both groups included participants who were living with and without HIV. Outcomes were adjusted for age, race, sex, history of noise exposure, and CD4 count and viral load. The researchers found that HIV treatment did not seem to correlate with hearing loss, meaning that it was HIV that caused a reaction to hearing loss.

The implication of this study is that adults living with HIV should be monitored for hearing loss, and where necessary, be provided with the appropriate interventions to correct hearing loss. Inability to communicate or participate in conversations with others might lead to social isolation and/or stigmatisation for people living with HIV, and should therefore be included in HIV check-ups as part of a comprehensive approach to care.

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