If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you may experience hearing loss later in life. Similarly, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People across 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 new virus. And something new about it is being uncovered constantly by scientists. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more facts to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So, let’s get this out of the way right away: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work like that. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for lunch.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For most individuals, the risks are vastly outweighed by the benefits. Talk to your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how can Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does it cause the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. This may trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. In these circumstances, your hearing will usually go back to normal once your symptoms clear up (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s important to remember that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. This can cause damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes cause damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would most likely be essentially permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this kind 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 in regards to patients’ experience, but a little less comprehended with regards to cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their body. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing impairment after becoming ill with Covid.
- 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 a relationship of some kind. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not really enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment guidance. That’s why research is so crucial.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively widespread, they’re able to generate a clearer image of the hazards associated with Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to learn. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still crucial that you get treatment as soon as you can. So call us if you suspect you might be developing hearing loss.