If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss may be in your future. 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 across the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And something new about it is being discovered all of the time by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary 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 keep in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t impact your ears at all. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For the majority of people, the risks are greatly exceeded 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 is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how can this trigger hearing loss? Specifically, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should mention, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. There are a couple of ways this might trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain properly. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. In these instances, your hearing will typically return to normal once your symptoms subside (if this occurs, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. This can cause damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes 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.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes help. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a bit murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated in terms of patients’ experience. By now, you’ve probably heard of something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their body. 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 still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory problems due to Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t very clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one single story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not actually enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment guidance. That’s why research is so critical.
As researchers unearth more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively prevalent, they’re able to establish a clearer understanding of the dangers involving Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to understand. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s important to seek help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss.