You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t use hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But within the last few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same illness that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also result in hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very novel virus. And something new about it is being uncovered constantly by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand currently.
So can hearing loss be triggered 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 causes hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work like that. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For the majority of individuals, the risks are greatly exceeded by the advantages. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to speak with your doctor, and get answers 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?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does this lead to 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 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 theory is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. This might result in hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically return to normal after your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. This can result in damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases result in 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 caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. Researchers are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. How much protection from this type 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 little murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated in terms of patients’ experience. By now, you’ve most likely heard of something called Long Covid.
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 lasts for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory problems due to Covid-19. The review found that:
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
Whether these auditory problems 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. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. When scientists are attempting to come up with a treatment strategy, these personal stories, 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 crucial.
As scientists unearth more evidence that these hearing complications are fairly widespread, they’re able to create a clearer image of the dangers related to Covid-19.
We definitely have to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still essential that you get treatment as soon as you can. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to schedule an appointment.