If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a noisy factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are rather 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? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of completely understanding Covid-19. And scientists are learning something new about it every day. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more facts to back it up. So let’s take 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 proven to cause hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work that way. 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. For the majority of people, the risks are greatly outweighed by the benefits. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to speak with your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is typically irreversible?
Scientists have a couple of theories. 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 affects your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. This may trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a more difficult time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will typically go back to normal (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to remember that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. Sometimes, 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 most likely be effectively permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is a result of inflammation. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. 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 second hypothesis is a bit murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more corroborated with regards to patients’ experience. By now, you’ve most likely heard about something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid long 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. Scientists are still unsure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t really clear, but it goes without saying there’s a relationship of some kind. 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 one individual narrative. When scientists are trying to come up with a treatment strategy, these personal accounts, 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.
Researchers will be able to get a better comprehension about the hazards of Covid as they accumulate more information about how extensive these complications are.
We definitely have to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. It’s crucial to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So call us if you think you may be developing hearing loss.