If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the last couple of years might also be responsible for hearing loss.
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. There is some research which suggests that hearing loss may be a potential side effect of Covid-19, but more research still needs to be done to back this up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: There’s absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine causes hearing loss. All of the currently 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 claiming that it caused your diabetes.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly surpass the risks for most people. 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 is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how can this trigger hearing loss? Specifically, how does it cause the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
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 impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. There are two ways this could lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage channels more narrow. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically go back to normal once your symptoms clear up (this wouldn’t be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. This can cause 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 situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically irreversible.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. Researchers are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s not clear, based on this research, exactly 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 second theory is a little murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated 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. Sometimes, patients 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.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
There’s definitely a connection between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect association. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s narrative. When scientists are trying to come up with a treatment strategy, these individual accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
Scientists will be able to get a better comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they collect more data about how extensive these difficulties are.
We certainly have to understand more. Research is ongoing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still essential that you seek out treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you think you might be developing hearing loss.