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Bell’s palsy and hearing: what you need to know

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Bell’s palsy is a condition that affects thousands of Canadians every year. Among other things it can temporarily impair the affected individual’s hearing. Fortunately, a swift diagnosis and proper intervention can help you minimize any discomfort. Here’s an overview of what you need to know about Bell’s palsy and hearing.

Understanding Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a condition that occurs when a specific facial nerve (the 7th cranial nerve) becomes swollen or inflamed. This often causes facial weakness or paralysis. Doctors don’t know the exact cause of Bell’s palsy. However, it may be related to certain viral and immune disorders such as shingles, influenza, Lyme disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. There may also be an inherited tendency toward developing this disorder.

Signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy symptoms come on suddenly and can have varying effects. While some people only experience mild facial weakness, others undergo total paralysis. Some additional symptoms of Bell’s palsy include fever, headache, dry eyes and loss of taste.

Furthermore, Bell’s palsy can lead to the early symptoms of acoustic neuroma, which causes a ringing sound in the ear, commonly referred to as tinnitus. Individuals suffering from Bell’s palsy may also experience hypersensitivity to sound known as hyperacusis. These conditions can increase anxiety, trigger depression and make it difficult to concentrate or get a good night’s sleep.

Diagnosing Bell’s palsy

There’s no specific test that can determine if someone has Bell’s palsy. To make a diagnosis, doctors usually conduct a full physical exam, which typically includes audiological tests. However, if the cause of a patient’s symptoms is unclear, the doctor may order other tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electromyography (EMG) and computed tomography (CT) scans.

Treatments for Bell’s palsy

For most people, Bell’s palsy doesn’t require treatment. In general, the symptoms are temporary and resolve on their own within a few weeks without causing any long-term problems. However, corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory medications, antiviral drugs and physical therapy may help speed up recovery.

Additionally, patients suffering from tinnitus or hyperacusis as the result of Bell’s palsy can undergo specialized tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) to reduce the negative impacts that these conditions may have on their everyday life. At Soundwave Hearing Care, we have an experienced team of TRT-certified audiologists and hearing aid practitioners that are some of the only TRT providers in the Canadian prairies.

Comprehensive hearing care in Alberta

At Soundwave Hearing Care, we provide auditory processing assessments,hearing tests and tinnitus evaluations for patients of all ages. We also carry a selection of innovative products, including hearing aids and assistive listening devices to help you hear better. Contact us at one of our four locations across Alberta for more information about our products and services.