If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t use ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People all around the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And something new about it is being identified 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 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 bear in mind: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes 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 like that. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly surpass the risks for the majority of people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to speak with your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
But, how can this trigger hearing loss? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually affect your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. This may produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically return to normal after your symptoms subside (if this occurs, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to reproduce. The outcome is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes result in damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be effectively permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s not clear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this type of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a bit murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more corroborated with regards to patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which people experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their body. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out 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 problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect association. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one single narrative. When scientists are attempting to come up with a treatment strategy, these personal stories, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively widespread, they’re able to establish a clearer picture of the dangers related to Covid-19.
We undoubtedly need to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is ongoing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still important that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, give us a call to schedule an appointment.