If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you may experience hearing loss later in life. 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 fairly common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
People all around 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? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of actually understanding Covid-19. 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 take a look at where things stand at the moment.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this off the table right off the bat: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed 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 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 most individuals. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to speak with your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So, how does Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? 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 usually irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
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 affect your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. There are a couple of ways this could trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. 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 experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s important to remember that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can lead to damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes cause damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically irreversible.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. Scientists are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is not clear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more substantial in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less understood with regards to cause and effect. By now, you’ve probably heard about something called Long Covid.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Sometimes, people will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). Scientists are still unsure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory difficulties are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t really clear, but it’s safe to say there’s a relationship of some kind. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s story. When scientists are trying to develop a treatment strategy, these individual accounts, 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 crucial.
Researchers will be able to get a better comprehension about the hazards of Covid as they accumulate more information about how widespread these complications are.
We definitely have to learn more. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s important to seek help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to make an appointment.