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SDSU Study Examines Hearing Loss Among HIV Patients

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Hearing loss experienced by HIV patients affects both ends of the audible spectrum and is not impacted by the severity of the illness, according to a study released Monday by San Diego State University.

Research by Peter Torre, an SDSU hearing scientist who specializes in epidemiology, showed that hearing loss among middle-aged HIV patients was on average 10 decibels worse than their non-patient counterparts for both low and high tones.

Usually, people lose their ability to hear higher tones first as they age. The participants listened to tones from 250 hertz to 8,000 hertz at different volumes.

Torre's findings appear in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. It's billed as the first comprehensive study to examine hearing loss after accounting for the effect of HIV medication use, adherence and related disease factors, according to SDSU.

It's been known for years that HIV patients were prone to suffer hearing loss, but the mechanics were not understood. The SDSU study did not uncover the physical cause of HIV-related hearing loss, but Torre said it could be a response to inflammation or some other viral process. He said he plans to continue his research.

"Our hope is that by understanding exactly how HIV relates to hearing loss, we can find or develop some medication that is therapeutic or protective against loss of hearing," Torre said.

He had help on the research from colleagues at Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The deafness institute and National Institutes of Health provided funding.

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