You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss might be in your future, for instance, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These are pretty common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, 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 problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of actually understanding Covid-19. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat early and is still waiting for more facts 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, let’s get this out of the way right away: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t impact your ears at all. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly outweigh the risks for the majority of individuals. Speak to your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Particularly, how does it cause the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be relevant!
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 affect your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. There are two ways this could trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally return to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses replicate by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can result in damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can in some cases result in damage to the vascular connections 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 often be helpful. Researchers are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a bit murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more substantiated in terms of patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their system. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. Scientists are still unsure just what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing impairment after becoming ill with Covid.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory complications 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. A variety of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or Anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one individual narrative. When researchers are attempting to develop a treatment plan, these individual stories, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so crucial.
As researchers obtain more evidence that these hearing difficulties are fairly extensive, they’re able to generate a clearer understanding of the dangers associated with Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to learn. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you seek treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you suspect you may be developing hearing loss.