If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Similarly, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the last few years, a new cause has entered the fray. 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 issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of completely understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being identified constantly 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 take a look at where things stand right now.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. 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 ate for dinner.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For most individuals, the risks are vastly outweighed by the benefits. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
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 normally permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. There are a couple of ways this could lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways narrower, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain properly. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. In these cases, your hearing will typically return to normal after your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. This can result in damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain takes place because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes be helpful. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. How much protection from this kind 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 significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Patients will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. Scientists still aren’t sure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory complications resulting from Covid-19. The review found that:
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect association. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
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 narrative. When scientists are attempting to devise a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so crucial.
As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are fairly extensive, they’re able to create a clearer understanding of the hazards associated with Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to understand. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. It’s essential to seek help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you think you may be developing hearing loss.