Flu shots: Is there a risk to my hearing?

 Flu season is fast approaching.  Officially, flu season in Canada starts in November and runs well into April. 

While I do side with medical science on the benefits of getting a flu shot (which include milder severity of illness if you do get sick, and reduced risk of spreading the illness to others vulnerable to illness around you), my clients do ask me if there is a risk to their hearing from getting a flu shot.

There is one large scale study which looked into any association between sudden sensorineural hearing loss and receipt of TIV (flu shot) and other vaccinations.  This studies analysis (using Kaiser Permanente Health – KPNC - database in the USA from 2007 to 2013) applied a case-centered method of research, and did not detect any association between sudden sensorineural hearing loss and previous receipt of TIV or other vaccines.  During the study period, >20 million vaccines were administered at KPNC. In all risk intervals prior to onset of SSHL, we found no evidence of increased risk of immunization compared with matched controls. The odds ratios for vaccination 1 week prior to SSHL were 0.965 (95% confidence interval, 0.61-1.50) for trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV); 0.842 (0.39-1.62) for tetanus, reduced diphtheria, and reduced acellular pertussis; and 0.454 (0.08-1.53) for zoster vaccine.1

So, the evidence suggests that there is no connection between many common vaccinations we receive.  However, anecdotally there are reports of people losing their hearing following receipt of vaccination.  I suggest that you have a discussion with your physician about the benefits and negatives of receiving a flu shot prior to getting it!

References:

1.  Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery. 2016 Jul;155(1):81-6.  Sudden-Onset Sensorineural Hearing Loss after Immunization: A Case-Centered Analysis. Baxter R1, Lewis N2, Bohrer P3, Harrington T4, Aukes L2, Klein NP2.

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