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 instance, if you work on a noisy factory floor without ear protection. These are pretty common and well recognized causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably 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 may include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are learning something new about it every day. 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 information to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hearing loss?
So, let’s get this off the table 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 that way. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it caused your diabetes.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are vastly exceeded by the advantages. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So, how can Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused 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 permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. There are two ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to escape or drain properly. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally go back to normal (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. The result is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes result in damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes be helpful. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s not clear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more substantial in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less understood 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 patients experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their body. 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 looked at data about long-term auditory complications due to Covid-19. The review found that:
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t really clear, but it’s safe to say there’s some kind of relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t really enough for scientists to go on when formulating treatment guidance. So research is essential here.
Scientists will be able to get a better understanding about the dangers of Covid as they gather more information about how extensive these complications are.
We certainly need to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is continuing. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you seek out treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss.