If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But within the last few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People throughout 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? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of really understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. There is some research which indicates 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 have a look at where things stand currently.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for lunch.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still vastly outweigh 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.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is usually permanent?
Well, there are a couple of theories. 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 eventually affect your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This might produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these situations, your hearing will typically go back to normal once your symptoms subside (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. The outcome is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes lead to damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would most likely be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes be helpful. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. 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 second hypothesis is a little murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more corroborated with regards to patients’ experience. At this point, you’ve most likely heard about something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, people will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). Scientists still aren’t sure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
Whether these auditory problems 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 initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
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. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t actually enough for scientists to go on when developing treatment guidance. That’s why research is so crucial.
As researchers unearth more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively prevalent, they’re able to create a clearer picture of the hazards related to Covid-19.
We undoubtedly have to learn more. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still important that you seek treatment as soon as possible. So give us a call if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.