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Drug helps sudden hearing loss

Drug helps sudden hearing loss

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Posted by HHIssues on December 12, 2000 at 09:56:18:

From WebMD at URL,101561.asp

Monday, September 25, 2000
Drug helps sudden hearing loss

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Sudden hearing loss following a chest cold can be reversed by adding an antiviral drug to the standard steroid treatment, Egyptian physicians said Monday.

In a two-year study presented at a meeting of head and neck surgeons in Washington, Hesham Zagloul and Mohamed Ghonim of Mansoura University say adding the drug acyclovir reversed the deafness in 83 percent of cases. Mansoura University is in the city of Mansoura, about 60 miles north of the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Sudden hearing loss, linked to a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract, strikes about 10,000 Americans every year, estimates physician George Gates of the University of Washington in Seattle. "I'll see one or two patients a week in my practice at the university, " he said.

The cause of the condition, known as idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss, is not known, but it may be linked to viruses, Zaghloul said, which can cause swelling and inflammation in the ears. It appears quickly, often in the wake of an upper respiratory tract infection. "Suddenly, within a few minutes, you lose your hearing in one ear," Gates said. About 40 percent of patients also suffer from vertigo.

For 20 years, the standard treatment for the condition has been doses of corticosteroids. Without treatment, Gates said, about one patient in three recovers hearing.

In the Egyptian study, Zaghloul said, 50 patients who came to the university hospital with sudden hearing loss, linked to a respiratory infection, were randomly divided into two groups. One group got the standard steroid treatment and the other got the combination of acyclovir and steroids.

"We found good hearing improvement with the combination therapy," Zaghloul said. More than 83 per cent of the patients in the combination group had improved hearing after a four-week follow-up period, he said, compared to 22 percent in the steroid-only group.

Some of the patients in both groups suffered from vertigo, he said, but that didn't play a significant role in patients whose hearing improved. On average, hearing loss persisted for six days. Zaghloul said patients who got treatment within a day or so of losing their hearing did significantly better than those who waited.

"Viral inflammation is the most commonly accepted cause for the condition," he said. "Adding antivirals, such as acyclovir, to steroids, increases the chances of recover -- especially when treatment is early."

"This is intriguing," Gates said. "A small study that shows a big difference can be powerful -- and showing a major difference like this is pretty eye-catching." An American study, led by researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, is also testing whether anti-viral drugs can improve the outlook for patients with sudden hearing loss. "If the other study confirms this one, we'll be in a position to recommend this as standard treatment," Gates said.

Acyclovir is used to combat such viral infections as herpes simplex and Epstein Barr disease.

(Written by Michael Smith in Toronto)

(c) 2000 UPI All rights reserved.

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