A recent study published in eClinicalMedicine looked at 49,247 individuals with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection among the population-based National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan to investigate the potential link between viral infection and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). According to researchers, “To our knowledge, this 13-year population-based retrospective cohort study is the first to investigate the epidemiologic association between HPV and SSNHL.”

HPV’s relationship with the Nuclear Factor kappa B (NF-kB) pathway—a group of proteins that control the body’s immune and inflammatory responses—as well as the “production of inflammatory ligands and cellular stress pathways involving NF-kB within the cochlea“ associated with sensorineural hearing loss, led the researchers to study the potential link between HPV and sensorineural hearing loss, as a potential effect of an inflammatory response.

Researchers found that HPV was an independent risk factor for the development of sensorineural hearing loss, though it is still unknown exactly how this occurs, according to the study. The study’s authors, however, hypothesized several potential mechanisms including a direct invasion of the inner ear by HPV virus, an area that includes the cochlear nerve, hair cells, and the organ of Corti. Alternatively, they believe it’s possible that a latent version of the virus could reactivate within the tissues of the inner ear, similar to what occurs in Ramsay Hunt syndrome; the syndrome comes about during a “reactivation of latent varicella-zoster virus in the geniculate ganglion,” causing symptoms like facial paralysis and hearing loss. Lastly, it’s believed that a systemic viral infection could also cause a stress-activated or immune-mediated response, activating critical pathways leading to the cochlea.

The study’s authors also found a higher risk of SSNHL in the three consecutive years after an HPV diagnosis, suggesting a potential effect from a persistent HPV infection.

To read the study in its entirety, please click here.

Original Paper: Chen T Y-T, Chang R, Hung Y-M, Yip H-T, Wei J C-C. Association between human papillomavirus infection and sudden sensorineural hearing loss: A nationwide population-based cohort study. eClinicalMedicine. 2022;47(101402).

Source: eClinicalMedicine