You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t use hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But within the last few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People across the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of completely understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being discovered constantly by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand currently.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: There’s absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine causes hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then claiming 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 benefits of these vaccines still vastly surpass the risks for the majority of 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 can Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does it cause the type 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. 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 considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. This might result in hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. After the symptoms clear up, your hearing will usually return to normal (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses replicate by taking over your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes lead to damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely 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 find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this type of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is unclear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a little 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 patients experience symptoms from Covid well 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 difficulties was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
- 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 a relationship of some kind. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one individual story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t necessarily enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment guidance. That’s why research is so crucial.
As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively widespread, they’re able to generate a clearer picture of the hazards associated with Covid-19.
We definitely need to understand more. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is ongoing. It’s crucial to seek help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you suspect you might be experiencing hearing loss.