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Influenza-Induced Hearing Loss

on 16 Feb 2015 5:07 PM
Blog Category: Noise Blog

We all know the common flu symptoms – fever, headaches, sore muscle, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, dry cough, tiredness – but did you know that the flu can also cause temporary and potentially permanent hearing loss?

How temporary hearing loss is caused

When suffering with influenza many people feel that their hearing is impaired and noise becomes dull + muffled. Congestion can block the Eustachian tubes creating temporary hearing loss. An ear infection can also be caused as fluid enters the middle ear (normally filled with air), reducing the ear’s ability to conduct sound properly. Generally hearing loss due to influenza returns to normal once the congestion is gone.

How permanent hearing loss is caused

If hearing has not improved once flu symptoms have subsided, this may be due to the virus affecting the hearing organs directly, causing sudden hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss may be reversed if prompt treatment is provided (ideally within 2 days). However, this kind of hearing loss is hard to diagnose as it can be mistaken for the temporary loss due to congestion from a cold, the flu or allergies.

If hearing has not improved once flu symptoms have subsided, this may be due to the virus affecting the hearing organs directly, causing sudden hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss may be reversed if prompt treatment is provided (ideally within 2 days). However, this kind of hearing loss is hard to diagnose as it can be mistaken for the temporary loss due to congestion from a cold, the flu or allergies.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a medical emergencywith the infected person losing hearing over a period of three days or less. In most cases, only one ear is affected. That said, permanent hearing loss from viral infections such as the flu are relatively rare.

Hearing loss and the workplace

Whether the hearing loss is caused by congestion or is sensorineural in nature it can be potentially dangerous if the infected person works in an environment where the need to hear well is extremely important and even necessary for worker safety, like a construction site for example.

Hearing loss often results in a reduced ability to perceive high pitched sounds (such as a reversing truck) and conversation will start to sound ‘muffled’. It becomes more difficult to hear high pitched letters like s, k, p and t and as a result, the infected worker may find it difficult to understand what is being said.

If the flu has caused permanent damage, workers may start to feel less confident in both work and social situations as the hearing loss affects the person’s ability to communicate and keep in touch with the world around them. Hearing loss may decrease their efficiency at work. In addition, accidents may occur when instructions or warning signals cannot be heard or are not understood properly.

What is absolutely crucial to remember is that if you do start to lose your hearing when infected with the flu, it is important that you seek medical help and start treatment immediately. Early diagnosis may actually be able to save your hearing.

When it comes to preventing the flu it is important to remember that the only available preventative measure is the flu vaccine.

For information about the JTA onsite Corporate flu vaccination program please give us a call on 1300 856 282

Read about our Flu Vaccination programs


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