Untreated syphilis can cause a loss of hearing with a condition called “otosyphilis” which causes hearing loss but can be reversible.  If a patient tests positive for syphilis and has no other reason for lost hearing, then this condition can be considered, and has been studied by Dr Daniel Bradshaw at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

The number of patients each year with diagnosed otosyphilis is low, so the management of this condition still needs ongoing investigation.  In the sample of this study, over 80% were also HIV positive, and all of the patients had other symptoms of syphilis.  If you test positive for syphilis and start to experience hearing problems then you should see a doctor straight away.  The average time for patients in this survey to start receiving treatment was 2 months, but faster in those who had HIV as they are likely to receive higher and regular levels of medical care.  Hearing improved or did not get any worse in all the patients, and the earlier they started to receive treatment the better the improvement.

Otosyphilis is uncommon but in view of increasing rates of syphilis, it is wise to be alert to its many symptoms and promptly initiate treatment.

Better2Know can test for syphilis at any of its nationwide STD testing clinics.  Syphilis is available on its own or as part of the platinum, full and peace of mind screens.  Syphilis testing needs a small blood sample and results are available the same day that the sample is received in the laboratory.

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