Two conditions that occur together are called comorbidities. One comorbidity of hearing loss that may surprise you is shingles. In this post, we review the connection between these two conditions.
What Is Shingles?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Almost 1 out of 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime.” This condition is a viral infection that typically affects adults 50 and older. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same one that causes chickenpox. For those who experienced chickenpox as a child, the virus may remain dormant for years and present later as shingles. However, it is possible to get shingles even if you were vaccinated against chickenpox when you were younger.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?
The most common symptoms of shingles include painful rash on one side of the body or face (typically within the first few days of the infection’s onset) fever, chills, headache and upset stomach.
Auditory Symptoms of Shingles
Auditory complications can also arise as a result of a shingles infection. These include hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo (spinning sensation) and dizziness.
Additionally, shingles can present as other disease pathways such as:
- Labyrinthitis. This is an infection of the inner ear that affects both hearing and balance.
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome. This affects the facial nerve near the inner ear and can also damage hearing. Most cases of Ramsay Hunt syndrome result in temporary hearing loss among the higher frequencies; however, in some cases, it is permanent. Usually, this occurs in people who don’t seek prompt medical care and in those who also experience vertigo.
How Can I Prevent Shingles?
The best way for you to prevent shingles and its associated auditory complications is to get vaccinated. The vaccine for shingles is called Shingrix, which provides immunity for up to seven years. Two doses provide more than 90% protection. The current recommendation is to get two shingles doses two to six months apart once you turn 50. As of the beginning of this year, Shingrix is now free for almost everyone.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call San Diego ENT today.