If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, 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 issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And scientists are discovering 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 take a look at where things stand right now.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to remember: 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 had for dinner.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still vastly exceed the risks for the majority of people. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how does this trigger hearing loss? Particularly, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation ultimately impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This may produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. After the symptoms clear up, your hearing will usually return to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. The result is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes result in damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would most likely be essentially permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this type of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is unclear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less understood with regards to cause and effect. At this point, you’ve probably 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. Sometimes, people will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). Scientists still aren’t sure just what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory problems caused by Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t entirely clear, but it goes without saying there’s a relationship of some kind. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one single 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. That’s why research is so crucial.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively widespread, they’re able to create a clearer understanding of the dangers related to Covid-19.
Of course, there’s still more to understand. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is ongoing. No matter how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still crucial that you get treatment as soon as possible. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, call us to make an appointment.