If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss might be in your future, for instance, if you work on a noisy factory floor without ear protection. These are fairly common and well recognized causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
People throughout the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And something new about it is being identified constantly by scientists. 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 let’s take a look at where things stand right now.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to remember: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly outweigh the risks for the majority of people. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So, how does Covid cause hearing loss?
But, how can this trigger hearing loss? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is usually irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. There are a couple of ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to get out or drain properly. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically go back to normal once your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The outcome is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain occurs because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically irreversible.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. Researchers are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this kind of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is unclear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a little less understood in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their system. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. Scientists are still unsure exactly what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- 7.6% of people reported hearing loss after getting Covid.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t really clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. When researchers are attempting to develop a treatment plan, these personal stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. So research is essential here.
Researchers will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they accumulate more data about how extensive these difficulties are.
We certainly need to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is continuing. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you get treatment as soon as possible. So give us a call if you suspect you might be experiencing hearing loss.