Vitamin E Shown to Help People with Sudden Hearing Loss
People with sudden hearing loss are more likely to recover when vitamin E
is added to their treatment, according to a new study in Otology and
Neurotology (2003;24:572-5). Healthnotes Newswire (October 2, 2003)
Sudden hearing loss is defined as a 30-decibel or greater hearing loss in
at least three sequential frequencies within three days. About 4,000 cases
are reported in the United States and about 15,000 worldwide every year.
Possible causes include infection, injury, tumor, toxicity, and
neurological, circulatory, and metabolic disorders; however, the cause of
sudden hearing loss remains unidentified in more than 85% of all cases.
Conventional treatment can include the use of steroid medications,
medications that dilate blood vessels (vasodilators), medications that
prevent blood from clotting (anti-coagulants), and inhaled carbogen (95%
oxygen and 5% carbon dioxide). There is little published research
supporting the use of any of these treatments. Recovery occurs within two
weeks in about 65% of people who receive no treatment. A number of animal
studies have suggested that oxidative damage to the inner ear may occur as
a result of inflammation and after exposure to traumatic levels of noise
and drugs that are toxic to the ear. In other animal studies, vitamin E and
other antioxidants have prevented ear damage from drugs known to be toxic
to the ear.
In the current study, 66 people hospitalized with sudden hearing loss that
had come on no more than seven days prior to entering the study were
randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups received the basic
treatment program, which included bed rest, steroid medication, intravenous
magnesium, and inhaled carbogen. In addition, one group received vitamin E,
600 IU two times per day, while the other did not. Treatment was considered
successful when hearing improved by 75% or more.
Significantly more of those receiving vitamin E had a successful response
to treatment than those not receiving vitamin E. At the time of discharge
from the hospital, treatment had been successful in 79% of those receiving
vitamin E, but only in 45% of those not receiving vitamin E. At follow-up
examinations, successful treatment was noted in 76% of those receiving
vitamin E and 56% of those not receiving vitamin E.
The results of this preliminary study demonstrate the potential beneficial
effects of vitamin E in cases of sudden hearing loss without known cause.
Larger placebo-controlled trials are warranted to confirm this benefit and
to establish the amount of vitamin E needed to see the greatest
improvement. It will be important for future studies to explore the
potential benefits of other antioxidants in treating sudden hearing loss.
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