If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These are pretty common and well recognized causes of hearing loss. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s right, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And something new about it is being uncovered all of the time by scientists. There is some research which indicates that hearing loss may be a potential side effect of Covid-19, but more research still needs to be done to back this up. So let’s have a look at where things stand at the moment.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes 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 blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for dinner.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For most individuals, the risks are vastly exceeded by the benefits. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among scientists 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 produce 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 accumulate. In these situations, your hearing will typically return to normal once your symptoms clear up (this wouldn’t be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. This can result in damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears takes place 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 be helpful. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this kind of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended with regards to cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely 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. Sometimes, people will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). Scientists still aren’t sure 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. Here’s what the review discovered:
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing loss after becoming ill with Covid.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t very clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t actually enough for researchers to go on when developing treatment guidance. So research is key here.
As researchers obtain more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively extensive, they’re able to create a clearer picture of the hazards involving Covid-19.
We certainly need to learn more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. No matter how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still crucial that you seek treatment as soon as possible. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, give us a call to schedule an appointment.