You might 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 use ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the last 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 where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So, let’s get this off the table right away: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. 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 lunch.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are vastly outweighed by the benefits. Talk with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how can this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is generally permanent?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. There are two ways this could lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically return to normal after your symptoms subside (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can result in damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears happens because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically irreversible.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. Scientists are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is unclear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less understood with regards to 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 question, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s unknown 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.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. When scientists are trying to come up with a treatment plan, these personal accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively prevalent, they’re able to establish a clearer picture of the hazards associated with Covid-19.
We undoubtedly have to learn more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. It’s essential to get help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it once was, give us a call to make an appointment.