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Surgery, Anesthesia, Hearing Loss

In Issue:

My hearing was adversely affected after surgery. Does anesthesia sometimes cause hearing loss?

M. Brown

We contacted the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) about your unfortunate experience. Dr. William Camann, an anesthesiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston, explains:

“Hearing loss is a very rare but known side effect of surgery and anesthesia. It may also develop after surgery in people taking certain drugs (for example, some antibiotics).

“The type of anesthesia and surgery being performed may influence the risk of developing hearing loss. Spinal (or epidural) anesthesia may change the circulation of fluid around the brain and spinal cord, causing some people to get a headache. It can also affect fluid within the ear, and may result in temporary or permanent hearing loss.

“Hearing loss has also been reported after cardiac surgery involving cardiopulmonary bypass [a heart-lung machine]. Although the cause is unknown, it is possible that ‘microemboli,’ or small particles, can move into the bloodstream during the bypass portion of the operation. These particles may travel to blood vessels of the ear, and have an effect on hearing in one or both ears. Blood pressure alterations during bypass surgery may be another factor.”

Dr. Camann adds that concerns about individual cases should be referred to the anesthesiologists and/or surgeons involved in the actual case.

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  • I am having difficulty in my hearing in both ears and this happened 2 months after my appendectomy. Is there a possibility of an overdose of anesthesia? In my surgery, Spinal anesthesia couldn’t be injected right away because of my weight and age and I was so nervous that I couldn’t stay still, and doctors found it very difficult to inject my spine.The anesthesiologist has to make me sleep injecting me with another anesthesia,he told me this after my operation. Is there a connection between my hearing loss and my surgery? Thank you.

  • Denise

    I recently had surgery and my hearing is affected. This is aweful.

  • tony

    it also happen to me it damaged my cochlea now i have tinnitus and im going crazy it sucks Tony


    many general anesthesia surgeries in my life——–7different hand operations in 1992, and 3 different dental procedures with anesthesia over 15years—-slowly my hearing worsened, now recently internal surgery has given me big hearing problems———I have always suspected it, now it worsened greatly since the internal surgery———no choice, the pain would have been unbearable without it! hearing aids do not help much now? warning to all it can happen! since 1992 hearing has gone down , down , down——–I am only 62, to make it worse yet all the medicines affect hearing too—-vicodin, morphine, any pain killer or sleep meds, also many antibiotics!! all have a negative affect on the nerves of your inner ear!!! look out for your self, they will not warn [email protected]@@ THOMAS