You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These are fairly common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But within the last few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s right, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also be responsible for hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. There is some research which indicates that hearing loss could 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 right now.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So, let’s get this out of the way right away: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t affect 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 established ones. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still vastly exceed the risks for most people. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. There are a couple of ways this could trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain properly. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these cases, your hearing will usually go back to normal after your symptoms subside (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. This can result in damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears happens because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. It’s unknown, based on this research, just how much protection vaccines give you against this kind of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a little less understood with regards to cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their body. Sometimes, people will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). Scientists are still unsure exactly what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
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 found:
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing loss after getting Covid.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect association. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t really enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment plans. So research is essential here.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively extensive, they’re able to generate a clearer picture of the hazards related to Covid-19.
We certainly have to understand more. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you get treatment as soon as you can. So Call or Text Us if you think you may be developing hearing loss.