You may develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, 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 kid on the block, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
People across the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of really understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being identified constantly by scientists. 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 where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for lunch.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are vastly outweighed by the benefits. Speak to your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? 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?
Scientists have 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 concept is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. This may cause hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. Once the symptoms subside, your hearing will normally return to normal (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. The result is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can in some cases lead to damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be effectively permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this type of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is unclear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a bit murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more corroborated in terms of patients’ experience. At this point, you’ve most likely 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 system. 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 looked at data about long-term auditory difficulties due to Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t really clear, but it’s safe to say there’s a relationship of some kind. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
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 necessarily enough for scientists to go on when devising treatment guidance. That’s why research is so critical.
Researchers will be able to get a clearer comprehension about the hazards of Covid as they accumulate more information about how prevalent these complications are.
We certainly need to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s crucial to get help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it used to be, contact us to schedule an appointment.