If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without ear protection. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s right, the same illness that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also result in hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it caused your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For most people, the risks are greatly outweighed by the advantages. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how can Covid cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is typically irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately affect your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. There are two ways this could lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. As this fluid builds up, hearing becomes difficult. In these instances, your hearing will usually return to normal after your symptoms subside (if this takes place, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses replicate by hijacking your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes cause damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. 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 provide is unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a little murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more corroborated in terms of patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which people experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their body. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out 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.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
There’s certainly a link between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s story. When scientists are attempting to come up with a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. So research is key here.
As researchers uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively extensive, they’re able to generate a clearer understanding of the hazards associated with Covid-19.
Of course, there’s still more to understand. The link between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is ongoing. It’s crucial to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss.