You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a noisy factory floor without hearing protection. These are pretty common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new kid on the block, 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 an extremely new virus. And something new about it is being discovered all of the time by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more facts to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand at the moment.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: There’s absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That’s just not 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 applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are greatly exceeded by the advantages. Speak with your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately affect your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all interconnected, after all. This might trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways narrower, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain properly. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. Once the symptoms subside, your hearing will usually go back to normal (if this happens, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Keep in mind that viruses use 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 happens because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would most likely be essentially permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. Scientists are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. It’s not clear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended 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 experiencing 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 still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory complications caused by Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing loss after becoming ill with Covid.
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t very clear, but it’s safe to say there’s a relationship of some kind. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one individual story. When researchers are trying to come up with a treatment strategy, these personal accounts, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. So research is critical here.
As researchers obtain more evidence that these hearing difficulties are fairly extensive, they’re able to create a clearer understanding of the dangers associated with Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to learn. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still crucial that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, call us to make an appointment.