When you visit an audiologist for a hearing assessment, they may ask you whether you have ever undergone any treatment for tuberculosis. While asking about your medical history isn’t unusual when seeing a medical professional, one might wonder why tuberculosis is so specifically named? In addition, someone who is undergoing treatment for tuberculosis may be referred for hearing monitoring but not understand why. How are hearing loss and tuberculosis linked?

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is quite widely diagnosed in South Africa. It is estimated to be the third highest incidence of any country in the world. For primary symptoms identify this disease of the lungs.These are a persistent, productive cough, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, and a loss of appetite (read more about the symptoms of tuberculosis here). Early detection and treatment is best. For most patients diagnosed with TB, proper administration and careful adherence to their treatment plan leads to a full recovery. However, poor adherence to medication as well as other factors has led to development of the bacteria. Multi Drug-Resistant TB (MDR TB), as well as Extensively Drug-Resistant TB (XDR TB) have emerged. Both of these are more difficult to treat.

How are TB and Hearing loss linked?

Pulmonary tuberculosis itself is not damaging to the hearing. However, some of the medications used to treat TB may be harmful to the ears, referred to as ototoxic. Generally, the first line medications used to treat responsive TB are not ototoxic. However, some of the injectable second line drugs that are used when this is not an option may be ototoxic in some cases. This is why it is so important to monitor one’s hearing regularly while undergoing TB treatment, especially if you are receiving injections.

What should you do?

Early detection of hearing loss for management purposes is important. So is letting your doctor know of any adverse side effects including a change in hearing. It is vital that one does not stop taking the medication or injections unless under advisement from your doctor. If you are concerned about loss of hearing while undergoing tuberculosis treatment, discuss this with your doctor.

For more information about ototoxity, tuberculosis, and hearing loss, contact us or comment below.