If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, 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? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for dinner.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly exceed the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how can Covid trigger hearing loss?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. There are two ways this might lead to 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. After the symptoms subside, your hearing will usually return to normal (this wouldn’t be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses replicate by taking over your body’s own cells. This can lead to damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can in some cases result in damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. How much protection from this sort of hearing loss the vaccines will provide is not clear, but 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 comprehended 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 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 lasts for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory complications caused by Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. 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 researchers to go on. So research is key here.
Scientists will be able to get a better understanding about the dangers of Covid as they accumulate more data about how widespread these difficulties are.
We certainly need to learn more. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. It’s essential 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 once was, give us a call to make an appointment.