Sudden deafness and Lyme disease

Laryngoscope. 2003 Feb;113(2):312-5. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200302000-00021.


Objectives/hypothesis: Otolaryngological manifestations are common in Lyme disease, affecting up to 75% of patients. One of these symptoms is sudden deafness. Hearing loss has been frequently described in Lyme disease; on the other hand, titers seropositive for, the causal agent of this disease, have been found in almost 20% of cases of sudden deafness. No consensual information exists on the outcome of Borrelia-seropositive patients or on the importance of determining Borrelia antibody titers. The present study aimed to determine the prevalence of seropositivity for Borrelia in sudden deafness, describing clinical characteristics and outcomes.

Study design: This was a prospective observational study.

Methods: Forty-seven consecutive patients with sudden deafness were enrolled in the study. Demographic data, the presence of tinnitus and vertigo, and low- and high-frequency pure-tone averages were recorded. The percentage of hearing recovery was determined. Data obtained from Borrelia-seropositive patients were described and compared with those from the seronegative group.

Results: Titers positive for antibodies were present in 21.3% of the cases. Seropositive and seronegative groups of patients were homogeneous concerning age, sex distribution, the presence of tinnitus and vertigo, and high- and low-frequency hearing thresholds. Hearing outcome was not significantly different between the groups of patients.

Conclusions: No distinctive clinical characteristic was found between seropositive and seronegative subjects. The hearing outcome of treated Borrelia-seropositive patients was similar to that of the seronegative group.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Borrelia burgdorferi* / immunology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi* / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Sudden / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss, Sudden / microbiology*
  • Hearing Loss, Sudden / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / complications
  • Lyme Neuroborreliosis / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M