You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Likewise, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t use ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People all around 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 an extremely new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. 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 where is this research currently at.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For the majority of people, the risks are vastly exceeded by the benefits. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to speak with your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how can Covid trigger hearing loss?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is usually permanent?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. 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 theory is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. There are two ways this could trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. As this fluid builds up, hearing becomes difficult. Once the symptoms subside, your hearing will normally go back to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to reproduce. The result is damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain takes place because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s not clear, based on this research, just 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 substantial in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are dealing with Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory difficulties are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t very clear, but it’s safe to say there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one single story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t necessarily enough for scientists to go on when devising treatment guidance. So research is essential here.
As researchers unearth more evidence that these hearing difficulties are fairly prevalent, they’re able to establish a clearer understanding of the hazards related to Covid-19.
Of course, there’s still more to understand. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is ongoing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still important that you seek out treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you think you may be developing hearing loss.