by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man wrote:
Your site (https://www.hearinglosshelp.com) is extremely informative. I do have a question. I am a member of ANA (Acoustic Neuroma Association) and there was one member a long time ago that experienced sympathetic hearing loss following AN surgery. Recently, there are others reporting AIED (Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease) following radiation and just watching the tumor. I was wondering if treatments for acoustic neuroma cause AIED, or is it that some people are just destined to acquire this no matter what the situation? Is sympathetic hearing loss and AIED the same thing?
Good questions. Strange as it may seem, sympathetic hearing loss is where you lose hearing in one ear from some cause, then later, your remaining ear loses its hearing—seemingly in sympathy for the first ear.
Now to answer your questions. Is sympathetic hearing loss and AIED the same thing? The answer is technically no—although they may be related at times. This is because if you had AIED in one ear, it could result in sympathetic hearing loss in the other ear according to one theory. Here’s how they think it works.
Some doctors think that the ear may be only partially “immune privileged.” This means that your body may not know about all the antigens in your inner ear. Therefore, when/if they are released into the rest of your body (perhaps following surgery or an infection) your body may think they are foreign agents, and thus wrongly attack these “foreign” antigens. The result could be hearing loss in your other, formerly good, ear.
Dr. Timothy Hain observed that some patients treated for acoustic neuromas have delayed sympathetic hearing loss in the opposite ear. This can also happen if you are treated for Meniere’s Disease in one ear, or if you are treated with radiation for a tumor in one ear.
Thus, there does seem to be some credibility to this theory, but it certainly isn’t the case in everybody with AIED. Dr. Hain suspects sympathetic hearing only occurs in about 1% of the patients in which inner ear antigens are released into the rest of the body following surgery, or other treatments. (1)
(1) Hain, Timothy. Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/autoimmune/aied.html