You may develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t use ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But within the past few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People all around the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include problems with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And something new about it is being identified constantly by scientists. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand right now.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So, let’s get this out of the way right away: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly surpass the risks for the majority of individuals. Speak to your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s discuss hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So, how does Covid cause hearing loss?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among researchers 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 linked. This may trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these cases, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms subside (if this occurs, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The result is damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears occurs because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. How much protection from this kind of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is not clear, 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 with regards to patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, patients will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t very clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t necessarily enough for researchers to go on when developing treatment guidance. So research is essential here.
Scientists will be able to get a better understanding about the dangers of Covid as they gather more data about how extensive these complications are.
We certainly need to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s important to get help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to make an appointment.