Sudden hearing loss a harbinger of stroke

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A sudden loss of hearing can be an early warning of impending stroke, according to results of a study released Thursday.

Dr. Herng-Ching Lin and colleagues at Taipei Medical University identified 1423 adult patients hospitalized in 1998 with a first episode of sudden hearing loss and matched each “case” patient to four “control” patients.

Patients in the hearing loss group were significantly more likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and elevated cholesterol levels, the investigators note.

Over the next 5 years, 180 hearing-loss patients (13 percent) and 441 control patients (8 percent) suffered a stroke. After adjusting for gender, income, level of urbanization, and comorbid illnesses, the risk of stroke was 1.64 times greater in the hearing-loss patients.

Among patients with hearing loss, 12 percent of strokes occurred within 3 months, 31 percent occurred in the first year, and 51 percent by the end of the second year.

The study, which will appear in the October issue of the medical journal Stroke, was posted online on June 26.

Lin and associates recommend that people who experience a sudden loss of hearing, particularly those with other vascular conditions or elderly patients, schedule a comprehensive check-up with their doctor.

Because half of the strokes did not occur until after 2 years, they further advise routine follow-up examinations for several years after the first episode of hearing loss.

SOURCE: Stroke, online June 26, 2008.