You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without ear protection. These are fairly common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But within the last few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People across the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. There is some research which indicates that hearing loss could be a potential side effect of Covid-19, but more research still needs to be done to back this up. So where is this research currently at.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: There’s absolutely no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work like that. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly outweigh the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Specifically, how does it cause the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This might cause hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these situations, your hearing will typically return to normal after your symptoms clear up (this wouldn’t be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses replicate by taking over your body’s own cells. The result is damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears happens because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. Scientists are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this type of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a little murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more corroborated in terms of patients’ experience. By now, you’ve most likely heard of something called Long Covid.
Patients will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one individual story. When scientists are trying to develop a treatment plan, these individual accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the hazards of Covid as they accumulate more data about how prevalent these complications are.
We undoubtedly need to learn more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. It’s crucial to seek help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you suspect you might be experiencing hearing loss.