If you suddenly have trouble hearing in one or both ears, are you destined to suffer a stroke at some point in your future? That is the question a group of researchers in Taiwan are pondering after examining follow-up data on more than 1,400 people hospitalized for acute hearing loss. Records show that up to two years after being admitted for their sudden hearing loss, they were one and a half times likelier to have suffered a stroke than was a control group of patients who had been admitted for appendectomies.

The researchers, based at Taipei Medical University School of Health Care Administration, are not yet ready to declare a definitive link between hearing loss and stroke. There are too many variables, including the possibility of unreliable diagnostic codes, uncertainty over the severity of the hearing loss and the extent of hearing recovery, and patients' own personal histories, including smoking, body mass, and previous cardiovascular problems, all of which can up stroke risk. But there does appear to be a connection, however tentative, between the two medical conditions.

If you experience a sudden loss of hearing, it's important to see your doctor and get tested. Hearing loss can have many causes, including neurological problems, circulatory-system malfunctions, or trauma to the ear. Make sure you get a thorough neurological exam and blood workup to learn whether you're at risk of stroke in the near future. And be aware of the symptoms of stroke, which tend to come on suddenly. They include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Mental confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty comprehending what others are saying
  • Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no obvious cause


Sources: American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org.