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People with HIV May Experience Low- and High-Frequency Hearing Loss


People living with HIV were found to have impairment in both low-frequency and high-frequency hearing, but no association was seen with disease variables such as CD4 T-cell count or type of antiretroviral treatment, according to a recently published study.

Peter Torre from the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at San Diego State University and colleague compared pure-tone hearing thresholds among HIV positive and HIV negative adults, looking at whether disease variables and antiretroviral therapy (ART) are associated with hearing threshold levels.

This study included 262 men (of whom 117 had HIV) from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study Baltimore/Washington DC site and 134 women (of whom 105 had HIV) from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study DC site. The average ages were 57 years for the men and 48 years for the women.

The researchers measured pure-tone air conduction hearing thresholds for each ear at frequencies ranging from 250 through 8000 Hz. They controlled for factors that could potentially affect hearing including age, sex, race/ethnicity, and noise exposure history, as well as CD4 and CD8 T-cell counts, HIV viral load, history of AIDS diagnosis, and cumulative duration of ART use for HIV positive participants.


  • The average high-frequency pure-tone hearing threshold in the better ear was 18% higher -- indicating poorer hearing -- among HIV positive compared with HIV negative participants.
  • The average low-frequency pure-tone threshold was 12% high among HIV positive participants.
  • Both hearing threshold differences were statistically significant.
  • However, there were no significant associations observed between HIV disease or treatment variables and low- or high- frequency hearing acuity.

"The HIV+ adults had significantly poorer lower-frequency and higher-frequency hearing than HIV- adults," the study authors concluded. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that HIV+ individuals have poorer hearing across the frequency range after many other factors known to affect hearing have been controlled for."

"High-frequency hearing loss is consistent with an accelerated aging (presbycusis); low-frequency hearing loss in middle age is unexpected," they added. "Because some vowels and consonants have predominantly low-frequency acoustic energy, poor low-frequency hearing may impair communication in HIV+ individuals."



P Torre, HJ Hoffman, G Springer, et al. Hearing Loss Among HIV-Seropositive and HIV-Seronegative Men and Women. JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. December 26, 2014 (Epub ahead of print).

Other Source

JAMA. Worse Lower-, Higher-Frequency Hearing in HIV+ Adults. Media advisory. December 26, 2014.