You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, 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 may include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very novel virus. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. There is some research which suggests 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 have a look at where things stand at the moment.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: There’s absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the presently 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 dinner.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly surpass the risks for the majority of individuals. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to speak with your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how can this trigger hearing loss? Particularly, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always 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 linked, after all. There are a couple of ways this might cause hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these instances, your hearing will typically go back to normal once your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. This can cause damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain happens because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. 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 theory is a little murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Patients 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 question, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that looked at data about long-term auditory difficulties resulting from Covid-19. Here’s what the review discovered:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t very clear, but it’s safe to say there’s some kind of relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one individual story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t really enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment guidance. So research is critical here.
Researchers will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they obtain more information about how extensive these complications are.
Of course, there’s still more to learn. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still essential that you seek out treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, contact us to make an appointment.