Study Links HIV, Antiretroviral Therapy to Poor Hearing


A report that was published online by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery revealed that adults who were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) had poorer hearing for both lower frequencies and higher frequencies, compared to adults who were free from the virus.

According to the background of the study, the connection between the dreaded HIV and loss of hearing during the period when the disease is treated by HAART, or highly active antiretroviral therapy, has not yet undergone a thorough investigation.

The hearing loss of patients infected with HIV was often related to the antiretroviral therapy, which is a claim that the study aimed to prove or disprove.

The team of researchers, including Peter Torre III from San Diego State University in California, evaluated the pure-tone hearing thresholds of a total of 400 subjects. Of the 400 subjects, 262 were men and 117 of which were infected with HIV. The remaining 134 subjects were women, 105 of which were HIV positive. The average age of the men was 57 years old and the average age of the women was almost 48 years old.

Upon completion of the evaluation and analysis, the researchers discovered that the high-frequency pure-tone average and the low-frequency pure-tone average were significantly higher for adults who were infected with HIV, meaning that they had poorer hearing abilities compared to the adults who were HIV negative.

The results of the evaluation were independent of the long-term usage of medications for antiretroviral therapy, the current cell count for CD4+ and the viral load of the HIV.

The researchers concluded the study by stating that it, by their knowledge, is the first one to show that adults that are HIV positive exhibit poorer hearing abilities over the entire range of frequencies, despite the fact that the variables that are known to have an effect on hearing have been limited and controlled.

Researchers have recently published a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal that HIV is undergoing rapid evolution. While the virus has been developing a resistance to the natural immunity of humans, it is slowly becoming less potent to cause AIDS.

As the virus adapts to the immune responses that are being developed by humans, HIV is evolving in such a manner that it is losing its ability for replication.

"Anything we can do to increase the pressure on HIV in this way may allow scientists to reduce the destructive power of HIV over time," said University of Oxford's Phillip Goulder.

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