If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t use hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a loud factory floor without ear protection. These are fairly common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People throughout the world have been ravaged by all of the numerous symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of actually understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. 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 let’s have a look at where things stand at the moment.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So, let’s get this off the table right away: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work like that. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for lunch.
This goes for the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are vastly outweighed by the advantages. Speak with your doctor and find reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how does this cause hearing loss? Particularly, how does this cause sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is usually irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all interconnected, after all. There are a couple of ways this could cause hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these cases, your hearing will usually return to normal once your symptoms clear up (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. The result is damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain occurs because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be essentially permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unclear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a little murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. At this point, you’ve probably 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 system. 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 denying 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.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
There’s certainly a connection between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect association. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
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. When researchers are attempting to develop a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively widespread, they’re able to establish a clearer picture of the hazards related to 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 continuing. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So give us a call if you think you might be experiencing hearing loss.