If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss may be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without ear protection. These are pretty common and well recognized causes of hearing loss. But within the last few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the last couple of years may also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of actually understanding Covid-19. And scientists are learning something new about it every day. 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 facts to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to remember: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for lunch.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly exceed the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure 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 is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does it cause the kind 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. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation eventually affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This may result in hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- 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. After the symptoms subside, your hearing will usually go back to normal (if this occurs, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses replicate by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can lead to 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 most likely be essentially permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. Scientists are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this kind of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more substantial in regards to patients’ experience, but a little less understood in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably 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 lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory difficulties caused by Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s story. When researchers are attempting to develop a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so crucial.
Researchers will be able to get a better comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they collect more information about how prevalent these complications are.
We certainly have to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still crucial that you get treatment as soon as you can. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it used to be, contact us to schedule an appointment.