If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without ear protection. These are pretty common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
People across the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. There is some research which indicates that hearing loss may 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 triggered by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work like that. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it caused your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For the majority of people, the risks are vastly exceeded by the advantages. Talk with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is generally permanent?
Scientists have a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. There are a couple of ways this might lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. After the symptoms subside, your hearing will normally return to normal (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses replicate by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can result in damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links 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.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this kind 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 substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are dealing with Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. 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 exactly what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory complications resulting from Covid-19. The review found that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t entirely clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not actually enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment guidance. So research is critical here.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer understanding about the hazards of Covid as they gather more information about how prevalent these difficulties are.
We certainly need to learn more. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. No matter how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still important that you get treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.