September 1st, 2015 | General | by Andreas Seelisch

Multiple Sclerosis and Hearing Loss

Although rare, sudden hearing loss can be the first sign of multiple sclerosis.


One of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis is hearing problems, which can manifest as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or sudden hearing loss.

These types of hearing problems aren’t common among those suffering from MS. Only about 4%-6% of people with multiple sclerosis are affected by tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.

Still, these symptoms may point to the onset of MS.

A five-year study observing 253 MS patients found that only 11 or just over 4% of them experienced sudden hearing loss. In seven of the 11 individuals hearing loss signalled the onset of their condition.

Receptive ashasia and multiple sclerosis

Receptive aphasia is another hearing problem that can affect MS sufferers.

Patients with this condition can hear people’s voices, but may not be able to understand what they’re hearing. People with receptive aphasia may not even understand their own words.

Is tinnitus or hearing loss permanent in MS patients?

Usually hearing loss and tinnitus related to multiple sclerosis are temporary and clear up on their own.

In the majority of cases where patients develop tinnitus, there are no lasting effects once this symptom is gone.

Any hearing loss or deafness experienced by MS patients is most often unilateral or occurs in one ear. Its onset can be dramatic, with hearing loss occurring either all at once or over a couple of days.

Sudden hearing loss by a patient doesn’t have to result in a complete inability to hear.

This type of hearing loss is defined as a decrease of at least 30 decibels, which may sound like you’re hearing a conversation half as loud as you would normally.

Complete deafness linked to multiple sclerosis is rare.

What causes hearing loss in MS patients?

The cause of hearing problems for multiple sclerosis patients may point to MS legions along the auditory pathways. But not all people with MS and hearing problems have legions along their auditory pathways.

Instead these legions can be found in other areas.

Another theory is that there is an accumulation of plaque on damaged nerves of the auditory pathways.

What to do?

Sudden hearing loss can be a sign of MS or an MS relapse, so visiting your neurologist, an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor) or your local audiologist is needed to determine the true cause.

For instance, sudden hearing loss could be a sign of heat exposure.

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