Author(s): Schubert CR, Cruickshanks KJ, Wiley TL, Klein R,Klein BE, Tweed TS. Diphtheria and hearing loss. Public Health Rep. 2001 Jul-Aug;116(4):362-8. PMID 12037265
Journal: Public Health Reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), Volume 116, Issue 4, 2001
OBJECTIVE To determine if infectious diseases usually experienced in childhood have an effect on hearing ability later in life.
METHODS The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study (N = 3,753) is a population-based study of age-related hearing loss in adults aged 48 to 92 years in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. As part of this study, infectious disease history was obtained and hearing was tested using pure-tone audiometry. Hearing loss was defined as a pure-tone average of thresholds at 500 Hz, 1,000 Hz, 2,000 Hz, and 4,000 Hz greater than 25 decibels hearing level in either ear.
RESULTS After adjusting for confounders, only a history of diphtheria (n = 37) was associated with hearing loss (odds ratio [OR] 2.79; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05, 7.36). There was no relationship between hearing loss and history of chickenpox, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, rheumatic fever, rubella, or scarlet fever. Only two participants with a history of diphtheria and hearing loss reported having a hearing loss before age 20.
CONCLUSIONS Diphtheria in childhood may have consequences for hearing that do not become apparent until later in life. A possible biological mechanism for a diphtheria effect on hearing ability exists: The toxin produced by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria can cause damage to cranial nerves and therefore may affect the auditory neural pathway. These data may have important implications for areas facing a resurgence of diphtheria cases.