by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man explained:
I came across your blog post regarding LVAS and hearing loss, and was looking for assistance or more information.
I am a 48 year old with profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. I’ve worn aids for 10 years and had many medical and hearing specialist exams but no explanation of the cause. It keeps getting worse, but mysteriously seems to vary, becoming milder, or more severe, on a weekly basis. I’ve never been able to correlate it to any food or activity.
Recently, I took a vacation during which I paused my regular and typically strenuous aerobic and anaerobic exercise activities. That week, my hearing was much better. Upon return to my normal exhausting exercise, I’m having one of the worst hearing weeks ever. This clued me to the possible correlation between hearing loss and exercise. Your article is the only one I find tying the two together. Is there any treatment or test to verify if this is the cause?
The suggestion I fear is ‘give up exercise’. I play competitive tennis, and train extensively for it. It is a lifelong passion. Making that sacrifice would be a drastic step, but at least I’d like to understand if that could be an answer to a hearing problem that is now affecting my ability to earn a living and support my family.
This is not a well-known subject, so you may have to do your own experimenting. When you stopped exercising for a week and your hearing returned to whatever degree sounds like a positive correlation to me. In order to prove or disprove this theory, do the same thing again. Stop exercising for a week and see if the same thing happens. If so, you know that for you, at least, strenuous exercise negatively affects your hearing.
In order to find out why this is happening, I’d suggest you have an MRI or CT scan specifically looking to see whether you have Large [or Enlarged] Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS). Be sure to have them measure the vestibular aqueducts and give you the results in mm. Some doctors just eyeball them and say—yup, you got LVAS. That is not the way to do it.
As you read in the above-cited article, some people with LVAS lose hearing due to strenuous exercise. You may be one of these. If that is the case, don’t think you have to give up all exercise. What I’d suggest is give up strenuous exercise—where you really exert yourself—cut it down to moderate exercise for a week and see what happens to your ears. What you want to do is cut down the exertion in the exercise to below where it causes hearing loss. Once you find that point, then stay below it if you want to preserve your hearing.
Straining to run faster, lift more, etc. increases your internal body pressure, and this is what causes the problem if you have LVAS. Thus, exercise that doesn’t substantially increase your internal pressure should be OK.
Once you have tried the above and see what the results are, then you can decide whether you want to protect your ears (and to what level), or continue with competitive tennis (and at what level). Perhaps there is a happy medium that will meet both needs.