You may develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
People all around the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather early and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for dinner.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For the majority of individuals, the risks are vastly outweighed by the advantages. Speak with your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how does Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Specifically, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, 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
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This might produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. In these situations, your hearing will usually return to normal after your symptoms subside (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. This can result in damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears takes place because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be effectively permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this type of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is not clear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more substantial in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less understood with regards to cause and effect. By now, you’ve probably heard of something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their system. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after becoming ill with Covid.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t entirely clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when somebody states that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not really enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment plans. That’s why research is so critical.
As researchers uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are fairly widespread, they’re able to generate a clearer understanding of the hazards involving Covid-19.
We undoubtedly have to learn more. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still essential that you seek out treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, contact us to schedule an appointment.