You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These are pretty common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People all around the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And something new about it is being uncovered all of the time by scientists. 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 right now.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this out of the way right away: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work like that. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it caused your diabetes.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For most people, the risks are greatly outweighed by the advantages. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, 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?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation eventually affects your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. There are two ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. Once the symptoms subside, your hearing will normally return to normal (if this occurs, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. The outcome is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears occurs because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unclear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more significant when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less understood in terms of cause and effect. By now, you’ve most likely heard about something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which people experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, people will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). Scientists are still unsure exactly what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory problems caused by Covid-19. Here’s what the review discovered:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing problems, 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 affect your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when somebody states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t actually enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment plans. That’s why research is so crucial.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the hazards of Covid as they collect more information about how prevalent these difficulties are.
Of course, there’s still more to learn. Research is continuing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still essential that you seek out treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you think you might be developing hearing loss.