You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People throughout 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 a very novel virus. And something new about it is being discovered all of the time by scientists. There is some research which suggests 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 where is this research currently at.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t impact your ears at all. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still vastly exceed the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how does this trigger hearing loss? Particularly, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally 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
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all interconnected, after all. There are two ways this could lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. As this fluid builds up, hearing becomes difficult. After the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally return to normal (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize 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 happens because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. Researchers are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this sort 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 when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less comprehended with regards to cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Patients 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). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory difficulties resulting from Covid-19. Here’s what the review discovered:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t very clear, but it goes without saying there’s a relationship of some kind. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one individual narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not actually enough for scientists to go on when devising treatment plans. That’s why research is so crucial.
As researchers uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively prevalent, they’re able to establish a clearer understanding of the risks related to Covid-19.
We certainly need to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s essential to seek help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.