You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly 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 hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the past few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also lead to hearing loss.
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 linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So, let’s get this off the table right off the bat: There’s absolutely no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work like that. 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 conventional ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly surpass the risks for the majority of people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally permanent?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
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. There are a couple of ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it more difficult for fluid to get out or drain properly. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. After the symptoms subside, your hearing will usually go back to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to reproduce. The result is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can in some cases result in damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would most likely be effectively permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is not clear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a little murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more substantiated in terms of patients’ experience. By now, you’ve probably heard of something called Long Covid.
Patients will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing 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). Scientists are still unsure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory problems due to Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t entirely clear, but it goes without saying there’s a relationship of some kind. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. When researchers are attempting to come up with a treatment plan, these individual stories, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
Researchers will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they gather more data about how widespread these difficulties are.
We definitely have to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. It’s crucial to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to schedule an appointment.