Although rare, hearing loss is a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Of those with MS, 6% report hearing loss. There is a smaller amount that report HL as one of the first symptoms of their MS, which are documented in a few studies.
There are test results, which we in the hearing industry use, that are found to have a closer link to MS. At times, these results help in the diagnosis of this challenging disease. MS is a chronic disease of the immune system that affects the central nervous system. The area most affected is the myelin, which surrounds the nerve fibers and helps message transmission along the strands as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The affected areas form scar tissue, which is the sclerosis, that distorts or interrupts the nerve transmission. If the area around the eighth cranial nerve or anywhere along the auditory pathway is affected it can lead to hearing and discrimination difficulties. The tests results that hearing professionals may find include a high-frequency hearing loss on one or both sides, lack of acoustic reflexes with normal to mild hearing loss, and abnormal latencies in an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). If an MRI is ordered, lesions will most likely be found and will help in the diagnosis.
Sudden hearing loss can occur in those with MS. The National Institute of Health finds that sequential bilateral hearing loss can be a symptom of MS and especially in younger patients with sudden hearing loss, MS should be included in the differential diagnosis. Everyday health lists other surprising symptoms of MS.
MS is difficult to diagnose for general physicians and neurologists, and is often diagnosed by ruling out many other health conditions. Many of those with this disease state if there were 20 people with MS in a room there would be 20 different stories on symptoms and diagnosis. This is why it is so very important to include any neurological symptoms in the physicians report for them to follow up with or refer on to a neurologist.