If you’re exposed 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 busy factory floor and don’t use hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People across 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? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand currently.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to remember: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for lunch.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly outweigh the risks for the majority of individuals. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So, how does Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. This might trigger 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. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. In these instances, your hearing will usually return to normal after your symptoms clear up (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses replicate by taking over your body’s own cells. The result 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.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. 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 unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a bit murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more corroborated in terms of patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their body. Sometimes, people will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). Scientists still aren’t sure exactly 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 discovered:
- 7.6% of people reported hearing loss after becoming ill with Covid.
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t very clear, but it’s safe to say there’s a relationship of some kind. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s story. When scientists are attempting to devise a treatment plan, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. So research is essential here.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they obtain more data about how widespread these difficulties are.
We undoubtedly need to learn more. Research is continuing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you get treatment as soon as possible. So give us a call if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss.