You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s right, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of actually understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes 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 ate for dinner.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly exceed the risks for the majority of people. Talk to your doctor and find 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 normally irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
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 ultimately impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. There are a couple of ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. As this fluid builds up, hearing becomes difficult. In these situations, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms clear up (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can in some cases lead to damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this kind of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is not clear, 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 corroborated with regards to patients’ experience. By now, you’ve most likely heard of something called Long Covid.
Patients 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 minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). Scientists still aren’t sure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt 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:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one single narrative. When researchers are attempting to devise a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
Scientists will be able to get a better comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they obtain more data about how prevalent these complications are.
We undoubtedly have to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is continuing. It’s crucial to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, give us a call to make an appointment.