ramsay hunt syndrome

RES and Shingles

Red Ear Syndrome (RES) was the subject of a recent post in this section.  RES can be painfully debilitating in some people, while other people experience it as painless and more a curiosity than a problem. It may be under-diagnosed because people either don’t report it to their health care providers or the providers are unfamiliar with the syndrome.  It is not familiar to most audiologists, or at least is not taught as a syndrome in regular audiology training.  

Today’s post is a Q&A initiated by a reader who responded to the RES post.

Q:  SARAH:  Has there been any link to RES and Shingles in the ear?

A:  HHTM:  Yes, and thanks for asking because we didn’t know there was a connection until you brought it up.  As with everything about RES, the connection is not well documented and the neural connections are speculative.  Read on.

We found a non-medical site– Neurocritic—which aims to “deconstruct sensationalist findings” in brain research.  Like RES, the site is a bit obscure, off the beaten path, highly individual, but interesting and informative.  Hard to vouch for the veracity of the information, but where else are we going to find out stuff about RES, especially when we’re trying to find out if it’s linked to another mysterious disease/syndrome like Shingles?  With that caveat in mind, here’s what The Neurocritic had  to say about RES:

“[RES] …can also occur in association with migraines, glossopharyngeal and trigeminal neuralgia, upper cervical spine pathology, and herpes zoster [shingles].”

All are painful conditions.  So painful that having a red ear might not seem like a big deal in the midst of an attack.  In such cases, RES may seem like a symptom of other diseases and syndromes, rather than a syndrome on its own.  The picture above of an ear with Shingles shows a very red ear  but the person in the picture is probably in so much pain that he could care less about the color of his ear. That might explain why RES seems to be under-reported and frequently misdiagnosed, at least in painful cases.  

But, we are Audiologists, not physicians.  We want to know whether hearing loss occurs with  RES.  So far, those reporting RES do not mention hearing loss in association with the effect.  But, the link to Shingles points the way to a bigger question that piques our audiological interest and will constitute a series of future posts:

Q:  What is Shingles and is it associated with hearing loss?


photo courtesy of shingles info