You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a loud factory floor without ear protection. 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.
People throughout 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 an extremely novel virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. There is some research which suggests that hearing loss could 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 currently.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine causes 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 blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for dinner.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For the majority of people, the risks are greatly outweighed by the benefits. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial 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 linked. This might trigger 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. As this fluid builds up, hearing becomes difficult. Once the symptoms subside, your hearing will normally go back to normal (if this takes place, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to remember that viruses replicate by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can result in damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases lead to damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes help. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. 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 next hypothesis is more substantial in regards to patients’ experience, but a little less comprehended with regards to cause and effect. 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 long after the actual virus has left their body. Sometimes, people will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that looked at data about long-term auditory problems due to Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- 7.6% of people reported hearing loss after getting Covid.
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
There’s certainly a link between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect association. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t really enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment plans. So research is key here.
As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively prevalent, they’re able to generate a clearer image of the hazards related to Covid-19.
We definitely have to understand more. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is ongoing. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still essential that you seek out treatment as soon as possible. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to schedule an appointment.