You may 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 use ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These are fairly common and well recognized causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new kid on the block, 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 might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of really understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand right now.
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. That’s true for all of the currently approved and obtainable 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 eating a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it caused your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly exceed the risks for the majority of people. Speak with your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So, how can Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is usually permanent?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. There are a couple of ways this might lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally return to normal (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses replicate by taking over your body’s own cells. The result is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases result in damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be effectively permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. Researchers are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s not clear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this kind of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more significant when it comes to patients’ experience, but a bit less understood with regards to cause and effect. By now, you’ve most likely heard of something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, patients will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that looked at data about long-term auditory problems caused by Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to 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?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s narrative. When scientists are attempting to devise a treatment strategy, these personal stories, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. So research is essential here.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are fairly widespread, they’re able to generate a clearer picture of the dangers related to 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 essential to seek help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.