New studies are showing that a lot of people are reporting hearing loss after COVID-19

You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.

People throughout the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.

Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very novel virus. And something new about it is being identified all of the time 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 let’s take a look at where things stand right now.

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 causes hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for lunch.

This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For most individuals, the risks are greatly outweighed by the benefits. Speak with your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.

Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.

So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?

So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Specifically, how does it cause the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?

Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They could both be relevant!

Theory #1: inflammation

Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. There are a couple of ways this might trigger hearing loss:

  • Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. In these instances, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms subside (this wouldn’t be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
  • Cell damage: Remember that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. The outcome is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases cause damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be essentially permanent.

Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. 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 corroborated in terms of patients’ experience. At this point, you’ve most likely heard about 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 mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.

Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. The review found that:

  • 7.6% of people reported hearing loss after getting Covid.
  • Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
  • 14.8% reported developing tinnitus

Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t very clear, but it goes without saying 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 single narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t necessarily enough for scientists to go on when formulating treatment guidance. So research is essential here.

As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively widespread, they’re able to create a clearer understanding of the dangers involving Covid-19.

Of course, there’s still more to understand. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. It’s essential to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, give us a call to make an appointment.

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References

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2022.883749/full
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14992027.2021.1896793?journalCode=iija20&

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