If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Hearing loss may be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These are pretty common and well known causes of hearing loss. But within the last few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also result in hearing loss.
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. 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 facts to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand right now.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to keep 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 like that. 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 established ones. For most individuals, the risks are greatly exceeded by the benefits. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to speak with your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Particularly, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is usually irreversible?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among researchers 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 connected, after all. This may produce 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 more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these circumstances, your hearing will usually go back to normal after your symptoms clear up (if this occurs, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. The outcome is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases result in damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes be helpful. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this kind 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 bit murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. By now, you’ve probably heard of 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, patients will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
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 some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one single narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t necessarily enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment plans. So research is critical here.
Researchers will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they gather more information about how extensive these difficulties are.
We definitely have to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. It’s essential to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So call us if you suspect you may be developing hearing loss.