As summer approaches and we have thoughts of camping, fishing and hiking through our incredible Wasatch Mountains, we will certainly be thinking of sunscreen and hats to protect our skin, along with long sleeves and pants to ward off diseases from certain plants and those pesky insect bites. Hardly anyone will think of something like protecting their ears and hearing!
The bacteria that causes Lyme disease which is transmitted by black-legged ticks to the human body, is a multi-stage disease cycle beginning when the bacteria enters the human blood stream after the tick infects their present host. Things such as cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, arthritis, meningitis, neuropathies and facial nerve palsy can be the result. The final symptom listed, facial nerve palsy can occur when the disease spreads into the facial nerve near the inner ear, causing nerve damage that affects your hearing.
A recent study cited in Hearing Health & Technology Matters, draws a link between Lyme disease and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). The take home for those who wander out into the great outdoors this summer is to know where you are, know whether there are ticks where you are, and wear clothing that covers appropriately if you’re in tick country. If you develop a rash, see your doctor, but if you experience hearing loss, see a professional Audiologist. We are finding that a sudden sensorineural hearing loss is often not reported or connected to Lyme disease very often by physicians or audiologists. It’s easy to miss the connection. Lyme disease, known as the “great imitator,” can be and often is misdiagnosed. It can take weeks to manifest after the tick bite, with symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis rolling out insidiously. However, a sudden sensorineural hearing loss is, by definition, sudden, dramatic, and impossible to miss.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, cover up and have fun this summer. However, please contact your audiologist if you ever experience a sudden hearing loss. Time is of the essence and in some instances the hearing loss can be reversed if diagnosed quickly enough.