On Episode Three of National Geographic’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge,” Ashton Kutcher revealed that he battled vasculitis disease and hearing loss. The disease not only took away his hearing but also his sight and mobility.
Ashton Kutcher’s Journey
Ashton Kutcher is a well known actor who has appeared in films and TV shows such as That ‘70s Show, Jobs, and more recently, Vengeance. On August 8th, 2022, Kutcher revealed in the National Geographic episode his struggle with vasculitis disease. Vasculitis is a type of autoimmune disease that has a wide range of symptoms.
In a clip from the show, Kutcher talks about how debilitating the disease was. “It knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing, knocked out like all my equilibrium,” he said. “It took me like a year to like build it all back up.” Additionally, as he walks through the trees in Costa Rica beside Bear Grylls, he mentions his mindset when trying to recover. “You don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone,” he said. “Until you go, ‘I don’t know if I’m ever gonna be able to see again. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to hear again, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to walk again.”
As of this writing, the video clip has since been viewed 209,000 times on Access Hollywood’s Youtube channel. Kutcher’s fans have taken to social media to express their support. On the same day that the episode aired, Kutcher made a post on his personal Twitter account: “Before there are a bunch of rumors/ chatter/ whatever out there. Yes, I had a rare vasculitis episode 3 yrs ago. (Autoimmune flair up) I had some impairments here, vision, balance issues right after. I fully recovered. All good. Moving on. See you at the 2022 NY Marathon w/Thorn.”
How Vasculitis Disease Affects the Ear
An article by Vasculitis UK shares the expertise of ENT Dr. Marcos Martinez del Pero. He says that vasculitis disease can present a variety of different symptoms, all stemming from an inflammation of blood vessels. There is currently no cure, but there are treatments to stem the development of the disease and provide relief for symptoms.
There is currently no cure, but there are treatments to stem the development of the disease and provide relief for symptoms.
For the ear, vasculitis and hearing loss are said to go hand in hand. Furthermore, the disease can present similar symptoms as infections and congestion. However, it can also cause inflamed tissue in the middle ear and sudden sensorineural (nerve) hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear and the nerve connecting the ear to the brain.
In order to detect granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), a type of disease associated with vasculitis, chest x-rays, blood tests, and biopsies are recommended to provide a diagnosis.
According to Dr. Martinez del Pero in the above-mentioned article, symptoms include discharge from the ear, deafness, and infection. The most common underlying symptom is inflammation of the hearing nerves that lead to subsequent symptoms; hence the connection between vasculitis disease and hearing loss. Rarer symptoms include tinnitus and vertigo.
Treatments for Vasculitis in the Ear
The Vasculitis UK article also dives into treatments for vasculitis in the ear. Non-surgical treatments mostly consist of antibiotics. These can help treat inflammation and infection in the ear. Hearing aids are used to treat the subsequent nerve hearing loss and possible tinnitus. As sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent, investing in hearing aids is a long-term benefit. In rare cases, corticosteroids can treat nerve hearing loss.
On the other hand, conductive hearing loss, caused when sound cannot pass through the outer and middle ear, can be treated with surgery. This surgery would involve repairing the eardrum or ossicles.
Protecting Your Hearing
The article closes with ways you can help protect your hearing from damage. Despite the implications of the disease on hearing loss, there are things you can do to protect your hearing as well. To protect your ears from infection, covering the opening of your ears with cotton covered in Vaseline during swimming, showers, and baths is advisable. This is especially the case if you suffer from consistent discharge. Another way to help your hearing is to get hearing aids, which can improve your everyday experience if hearing loss is affecting your life.
Rachael is a high school student with single-sided deafness from California, United States. She was born with her hearing loss and currently wears the Phonak Cros B and utilizes the Phonak Roger On and Compilot II. Rachael works as a Brand Ambassador and Content Creator for Hearing Like Me. She passionately advocates to create a more accessible world for disabled youth through art and writing.
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