Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 00:03 UK

Hearing loss link to stroke risk

Sudden hearing loss could be an ominous sign

Sudden hearing loss could be a warning sign of increased stroke risk, Taiwanese research suggests.

People hospitalised for sudden hearing loss had more strokes in the following five years than otherwise healthy appendicitis patients.

The article, in the journal Stroke, suggested no reason why the hearing problem could be linked to strokes.

UK stroke specialist Dr Tony Rudd, of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, described it as "an unusual" finding.

It's an unusual finding, quite surprising, but not one that you hear, and immediately think makes sense
Dr Tony Rudd
Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital

There are dozens of reasons, including some illnesses, such as mumps, measles, and meningitis, why someone might suffer sudden hearing loss.

The suggestion of the research, which looked at 1,423 patients taken to hospital after losing their hearing, is that it could be a sign that the person has a far higher chance of stroke even some years afterwards.

The hearing loss patients were compared with 5,692 patients taken into hospital for appendix removal - chosen because among hospitalised patients, they best represent the healthy population outside.

The researchers found that after hearing loss, they were one-and-a-half times more likely to have a stroke in the five subsequent years.

The study authors stressed that it was a preliminary finding, and the lack of information about other stroke risk factors in the patients could have skewed the findings.

Dr Herng-Ching Lin, from Tapei Medical School of Health Care Administration, said: "To the best of our knowledge, no study has investigated the incidence or risk of cerebrovascular diseases following the onset of sudden sensorineural hearing loss."

Neurological examinations

He called for more studies to confirm the finding, but said that doctors should consider closer neurological examinations and subsequent check-ups for anyone brought to hospital for this kind of hearing loss.

Dr Tony Rudd, a stroke specialist from Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, said that while it was an "interesting association", the two might not turn out to be linked.

"It's an unusual finding, quite surprising, but not one that you hear, and immediately think makes sense."

He said that while stroke itself could cause hearing loss, this was "very rare", although patients who lost hearing because of blood supply problems to their inner ear might be investigated to see if similar problems could happen anywhere else.

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