Is hearing impairment associated with HIV? A systematic review of data from low and middle-income countries


OBJECTIVES: To systematically review evidence on the prevalence and characteristics of hearing impairment among children and adults living with HIV in low and middle-income countries (LMIC). METHODS: Articles were identified up to January 2016 through searching four electronic databases. Epidemiological studies conducted in LMIC that explored the association between HIV status and hearing loss, with or without an HIV-uninfected comparison group, were eligible for inclusion. Results were screened and assessed for eligibility and data were extracted by two reviewers, with discussion in the case of disagreement. Findings were narratively synthesized. RESULTS: The search identified 638 unique references, of which 21 studies were included in the review, including 3491 people with HIV from 13 LMIC. There was lack of consistency in the definition used for hearing loss, making comparability across studies difficult. Among children with HIV, across the three studies that used a cut-off of >15dB in either ear, the prevalence of hearing loss ranged from 22-37%. Among the three studies that used >25dB in either ear, the prevalence ranged from 32-39%. Among adults with HIV, for the five studies that used a threshold of >25dB for either ear, the prevalence ranged from 10-43%. The prevalence of hearing impairment was significantly higher among people with HIV than in controls in eight of the ten studies that assessed this comparison. Conductive hearing loss was the most common type of hearing loss in children with HIV, while sensorineural hearing loss was more common in adults with HIV. There was a lack of evidence for an association between ART use and hearing loss, though there was some suggestion that late stage of HIV disease or low CD4 count was related to hearing loss. There were concerns about the quality of the studies included in the review. CONCLUSIONS: The current evidence is suggestive of a high prevalence of hearing loss among people living with HIV compared to people without HIV, or to WHO estimates for the general population. More research is needed to better understand the aetiology of hearing loss in relation to HIV, and whether screening for and treatment of hearing loss can be effectively integrated into HIV treatment services needs further research. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved


Ensink RJH, Kuper H




  • Population(s)
    • Children or Youth (less than 18 years old)
    • General HIV+ population


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