AIDS/HIV and Hearing Loss

Does AIDS and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cause hearing loss? The data available is contradictory, limited, and inconclusive. Even those studies that appear to show a causal relationship, have concluded that there may be other reasons that account for the hearing loss in people living with HIV/AIDS patients. However, we may have a definitive answer after a major study funded by the Federal government, is completed.

Does AIDS/HIV Cause Hearing Loss?

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says on its website that as much as 49% of patients infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) have sensorineural hearing loss. However, while the VA states that the HIV could be affecting the central nervous system (CNS) or peripheral auditory nerve, there could be other causes also. Those other causes include ototoxic drugs and other CNS infections.

Another study has looked at whether the treatment for HIV/AIDS could affect hear. The study, in which findings were inconclusive, observed 99 patients with HIV/AIDS and found that 29% suffered hearing loss. Any apparent relationship between age and antiretroviral treatment was more obvious with the older patients. In patients aged 35 years or older who received antiretroviral therapy there was a significant correlation between the loss of hearing and the treatment.

However, a significant relationship was not found in younger patients who received antiretroviral therapy. This begs the question: Is it age and not HIV/AIDS that causes hearing loss?

Definitive Study Seeks Answers

The Federal government's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders is funding a five year study by the University of Rochester Medical Center that seeks to settle the question of whether HIV or AIDS can cause hearing loss.

This study will compare the hearing of people who do not have HIV/AIDS, to the hearing of patients who do have HIV/AIDS. One theory, based on reports, is that HIV and Aids may cause premature aging; since aging has a clear, known association with hearing loss researchers will see if there is a correlation. In addition, the study will look at the stages of HIV and hearing loss, and the possible ototoxicity of the antiretroviral drugs. The University of Rochester Medical Center study was announced in late 2009 and will not be completed until around 2015.


Hearing Impairment in HIV/AIDS. University of Rochester Medical Center, Department of Otolaryngology. Abstract of ongoing study. Accessed February 2010.

HIV and Hearing Loss. AdvanceWeb. Accessed February 2010.

Marra MD, Christina M,, Wechkin, Hope A., Longstreth, Jr, MD, W. T., Rees, PhD, Thomas S., Syapin, PhD, Connie L., and Gates MD, George A. Hearing Loss and Antiretroviral Therapy in Patients Infected With HIV-1. Archives of Neurology 1997;54(4):407-410.

Otolaryngologic Manifestations of HIV. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Accessed: February 2010.

Rochester Study Targets Hearing Loss in HIV/AIDS Patients. RocNow. Accessed February 2010.

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