If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t use hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And something new about it is being discovered constantly by scientists. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather early and is still waiting for more facts to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand currently.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: There’s absolutely no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes 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 eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it caused your diabetes.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For most people, the risks are vastly outweighed by the advantages. Speak to your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that out of the way, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how does this trigger hearing loss? Particularly, how does it cause the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should mention, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They could both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all interconnected, after all. There are a couple of ways this could trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain properly. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these situations, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms subside (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to remember that viruses replicate by taking over your body’s own cells. This can cause damage. Sometimes, 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 most likely be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s not clear, based on this research, just how much protection vaccines give you against this kind of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more significant when it comes to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their body. 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 question, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory difficulties caused by Covid-19. The review found that:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t really clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. A variety of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
When somebody 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’s not necessarily enough for scientists to go on when devising treatment plans. So research is key here.
As researchers unearth more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively widespread, they’re able to generate a clearer understanding of the hazards related to Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to learn. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still essential that you seek out treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to schedule an appointment.