Ramsey Hunt Syndrome and Its Affect on Hearing

 

The Ramsey Hunt Syndrome (RHS) has gained increasing awareness since Justin Bieber’s diagnosis went public in June. As an audiologist, I immediately wondered if it would affect his hearing which could in turn possibly affect his career.

On the popstar’s Instagram, he showed how the syndrome has affected the muscles on one side of his face. He was unable to blink his right eye, wiggle his nose, or smile. Because of his sudden facial paralysis, Bieber chose to cancel his tour.

 

 

What is RHS?

Ramsey Hunt Syndrome (RHS) is a rare neurological disorder caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. The virus forms a painful, blistering rash and causes the facial nerves to swell and paralyze.

With most patients, the syndrome affects only one side of the face. Anyone who has had chickenpox or shingles is at risk of the virus reactivating; however, this syndrome is very rare, affecting only 5 out of every 100,000 people in the United States, according to NRD.

 

 

How RHS Affects Hearing

Three symptoms of RHS are mild to moderate hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus, all resulting from a swollen vestibular nerve within the ear. As the syndrome affects the facial nerves, the cochlear malfunctions. The resulting hearing loss is usually temporary, but it may become permanent if left untreated.

In my experience, some practitioners have not recommended a hearing evaluation once RHS is diagnosed. Always make sure to ask for a referral for a hearing evaluation! Depending on the symptoms someone with RHS has, a hearing test or anti-inflammatory drugs are not always prescribed.

At Elkhart Audiology Rehab, we provide hearing tests for those with RHS. Treatments may include antivirals and strong anti-inflammatory drugs. Because physicians may not always recommend hearing tests, be proactive about your hearing health. If you notice a change in your hearing, reach out to Elkhart Audiology Rehab for the proper referrals and treatment.

 

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