You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same illness that’s been turning the world upside down for the last couple of years might also be responsible for hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of really understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being discovered constantly by scientists. There is some research which indicates 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.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause 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 conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly exceed the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure 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 is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how can this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
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 concept is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. This might result in 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, it becomes harder to hear. In these situations, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to remember that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. The result is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes lead to damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically irreversible.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes help. Researchers are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. It’s unclear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this type of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a bit murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably 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. 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 still aren’t sure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing loss after becoming ill with Covid.
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
Whether these auditory difficulties are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t entirely clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t actually enough for researchers to go on when developing treatment plans. That’s why research is so critical.
As researchers unearth more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively prevalent, they’re able to create a clearer understanding of the dangers involving Covid-19.
Of course, there’s still more to understand. Research is continuing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. It’s important to seek 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, contact us to schedule an appointment.
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