Shingles of the ear, also known as herpes zoster oticus is an infection of the inner ear nerve caused by a recurrence of childhood chicken pox. Usually presenting with an excruciating ear ache on one side, followed by a small blistering rash, zoster can also cause permanent hearing loss and facial paralysis. Accurate identification is urgent, as the disease may be mistaken for Bell’s Palsy, and may be made worse by treatment with steroids.

Zoster can be treated with antiviral medications if recognized early in the course of the disease, and prompt treatment increases the chance of recovering hearing and facial nerve function.   Zoster is more likely if your immune system is compromise from inadequate rest, poor diet, or stress, and increases after age 50.  A shingles vaccine is available for adults over age 50 who wish to reduce the probability of this painful illness.

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