If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you may experience hearing loss later in life. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a noisy factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are rather 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 numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very novel virus. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather early and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand right now.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So, let’s get this off the table right off the bat: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers 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 blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for lunch.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly outweigh the risks for the majority of people. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is usually irreversible?
Scientists have 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. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. This may produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain properly. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically return to normal once your symptoms subside (this wouldn’t be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases lead to damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes be helpful. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this kind of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is unclear, 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 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 individuals experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, people will experience a mild 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 still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory difficulties resulting from Covid-19. The review found that:
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. A variety of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. When scientists are attempting to develop 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. So research is key here.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they collect more information about how extensive these difficulties are.
We certainly have to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still crucial that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, call us to schedule an appointment.