You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t use hearing protection, hearing loss might 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 across 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? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are learning something new about it every day. There is some research which suggests 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 at the moment.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For the majority of people, the risks are greatly outweighed by the advantages. Talk to your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how does this trigger hearing loss? Particularly, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally permanent?
Well, there are a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. There are a couple of ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. In these instances, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms clear up (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. The result is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears happens because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be effectively permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes help. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is not clear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. By now, you’ve most likely 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 body. Sometimes, patients will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). Scientists are still unsure exactly what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory problems due to Covid-19. The review found that:
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
There’s certainly a link between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one individual narrative. When researchers are attempting to come up with a treatment strategy, 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 scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively extensive, they’re able to create a clearer image of the risks related to Covid-19.
We definitely have to understand more. Research is continuing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. No matter how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still essential that you get treatment as soon as possible. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to make an appointment.