Canadian-born singer/songwriter, Justin Bieber, recently announced that he was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. This is a rare neurological disorder that causes paralysis in the facial nerves, a rash that can affect the ear or mouth, tinnitus, and hearing loss.
Bieber posted an Instagram video that showed the 28-year-old with a partially paralyzed face. He mentioned difficulty with eating. The right side of his face remained still as he smiled and moved his nostrils. He also struggled to blink his right eye.
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, about 5 in 100,000 Americans are affected by Ramsay Hunt syndrome. The cause of this disorder is the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults. It is also known as “herpes zoster oticus” because of the physical characteristics of the ear rash. “Herpes zoster oticus” mainly refers to the ear rash, and it’s called “Ramsay Hunt Syndrome” if facial paralysis occurs in addition to the ear rash.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Treatment
There are no preventative care measures for Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Patients can recover from it within a few weeks to several months. Early treatment is better for the best recovery outcome if it is treated within three days after noticing symptoms.
Treatment options include antiviral medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain killers. Please find out from family members or ask your healthcare provider if you are susceptible to hearing loss before taking these medications. They can be ototoxic, and impact your hearing health.
If symptoms of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome are left untreated, patients may experience permanent weakness of facial muscles or hearing loss.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and its Impact on Hearing
A rash on the outer ear and external ear canal can form if you have Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Tinnitus is also a common symptom. Some patients may develop sensorineural hearing loss if the nerve that’s affected can no longer transmit vibrations to the brain.
There is currently no clear relation between the severity of facial weakness in patients with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and hearing loss, but one study from the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry reported nearly 19% of patients had an irregular audiogram.
In a study in the journal “Medicine”, hearing loss was more severe in high-frequency ranges than in the low-frequency ranges for patients who had the Herpes zoster oticus virus. Hearing problems were worse in patients who had vertigo than in patients without vertigo in high and low frequencies. The range of hearing loss was not substantially different between patients who had and did not have facial paralysis from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Another study from Japan showed complete recovery in 85 out of 173 (49%) adults and 33 out of 42 (78%) patients who were under the age of 16. Complete recovery was shown in audiograms of 66% of children with audiometry documented hearing loss compared to 37.7% of adults.
Healthcare and Recovery
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is not contagious. It can still develop in people who have had chickenpox, but those who have not had chickenpox should get their chickenpox vaccine and their shingles vaccine.
If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss and/or tinnitus that was caused by any reason, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation.
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