You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without ear protection. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But within the past few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, 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 issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of really understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. There is some research which indicates 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 where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger 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 available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly outweigh the risks for the majority of individuals. Talk with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?
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 usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. There are two ways this might cause hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. Once the symptoms subside, your hearing will usually return to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. This can lead to damage. And because Covid affects 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 probably be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by 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. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more significant when it comes 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 most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their body. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review found that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing loss after getting Covid.
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t entirely clear, but it’s safe to say there’s some kind of relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
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 trying to come up with a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. So research is critical here.
Scientists will be able to get a better comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they accumulate more data about how extensive these complications are.
We undoubtedly have to learn more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is continuing. It’s crucial to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you think you may be developing hearing loss.