You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People throughout the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of completely understanding Covid-19. And scientists are learning something new about it every day. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: There’s absolutely no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like eating 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 benefits of these vaccines still greatly exceed the risks for most people. Speak with your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
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 it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually affect your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all interconnected, after all. This might result in 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. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will typically return to normal (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. The consequence is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes result in damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes be helpful. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s not clear, 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 second hypothesis is a little murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. By now, you’ve probably heard of something called Long Covid.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are dealing with 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 doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. When researchers are trying to develop a treatment plan, these personal accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
Researchers will be able to get a better understanding about the hazards of Covid as they gather more data about how extensive these difficulties are.
We certainly have to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still crucial that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So give us a call if you think you might be developing hearing loss.