Original Research

Prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus in a group of adults with Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Alison Millar, Karin Joubert, Alida Naude
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 67, No 1 | a631 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v67i1.631 | © 2020 Alison Millar, Karin Joubert, Alida Naude | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 March 2019 | Published: 04 February 2020

About the author(s)

Alison Millar, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Karin Joubert, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Ndlovu Wits Audiology Clinic and Outreach Programme, Dennilton, South Africa
Alida Naude, Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has become a global pandemic. With the improvement of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment regimens, life-expectancy of HIV-positive individuals has increased. HIV literature suggests that head and neck manifestations may be the first indication of supressed immunity. Therefore, research regarding the effects of HIV and new treatment regimens on auditory function remains a priority.

Objectives: To describe the audiological characteristics and determine the prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus in a group of HIV-positive individuals on ARV treatment residing in a rural province.

Methods: The study employed a cross-sectional descriptive research design. Participants were recruited from the clinic and pharmacy waiting areas of a medical centre in a rural area of Limpopo province, South Africa. Two participant groups, an HIV-positive group (N1 = 60) and an HIV-negative group (N2 = 32) were included in the study. The test battery comprised a comprehensive case history and a routine audiological test battery, which included otoscopy, tympanometry and pure tone audiometry (250 Hz to 8000 Hz).

Results: No statistically significant difference was found regarding the prevalence of hearing loss in the two participant groups (p = 0.709). However, the prevalence of tinnitus was significantly higher in the HIV-positive group (p = 0.05).

Conclusion: The insignificant difference in the audiological test battery results found between the two participant groups may be due to improved ARV treatment regimens and management strategies employed at the medical centre. However, the increased prevalence of tinnitus in the HIV-positive group may also be attributed to the ARV regimen and/or the result of subtle damage to the auditory system, which was not identified by the current audiological test battery. More insight may be obtained about the effects of HIV on hearing by employing a longitudinal research design and inclusion of a more ototoxicity sensitive test battery.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus; Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome; antiretroviral; hearing loss; tinnitus; audiology; rural.


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