You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss may be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the last few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, 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 problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. 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 data to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand at the moment.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t impact your ears at all. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly outweigh the risks for most individuals. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to 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 it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately affect your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. This might trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways narrower, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain properly. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally go back to normal (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to remember that viruses replicate by hijacking your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes lead to damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this kind of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended with regards to 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 drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory problems resulting from Covid-19. The review found that:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t very clear, but it’s safe to say there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not actually enough for researchers to go on when developing treatment plans. So research is critical here.
Researchers will be able to get a clearer understanding about the hazards of Covid as they collect more information about how extensive these complications are.
Of course, 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 continuing. 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 might be developing hearing loss.