You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss may be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also result in hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And something new about it is being uncovered all of the time by scientists. There is some research which suggests 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, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. 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 benefits of these vaccines still vastly exceed the risks for most individuals. Speak to your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how can this trigger hearing loss? Particularly, 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?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should mention, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. There are two ways this could lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels smaller, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will usually return to normal (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to remember that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears takes place because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unclear, based on this research, just how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more significant when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less understood with regards to cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are dealing with Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. Scientists still aren’t sure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t entirely clear, but it’s safe to say there’s a relationship of some kind. A variety of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one individual narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t necessarily enough for researchers to go on when developing treatment plans. That’s why research is so crucial.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer understanding about the hazards of Covid as they gather more information about how widespread these difficulties are.
We certainly have to learn more. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. It’s important to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So call us if you think you might be experiencing hearing loss.