If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without ear protection. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
People all around the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include issues with hearing.
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 suggest that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather early and is still waiting for more information 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 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. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it caused your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are greatly outweighed by the advantages. Talk to your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This might cause hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. After the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally go back to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to remember that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. This can cause damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain occurs because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. Scientists are still looking 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 unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a little murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. By now, you’ve probably heard about something called Long Covid.
Patients 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 still aren’t sure why.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- After having 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. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or Anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one single story. When scientists are trying to develop a treatment plan, these personal accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. So research is essential here.
As researchers obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively prevalent, they’re able to establish a clearer understanding of the risks involving Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to learn. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. No matter how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still crucial that you get treatment as soon as you can. So give us a call if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.