You might develop hearing loss as you get older, particularly if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. 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 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 last couple of years might also be responsible for hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of really understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. There is some research which suggests that hearing loss could 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 cause hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work like that. 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 established ones. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly surpass the risks for most individuals. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to speak with your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how can this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does it trigger the type 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 theories. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation eventually affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all interconnected, after all. 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 channels more narrow. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. In these instances, your hearing will usually go back to normal once your symptoms clear up (if this occurs, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to remember that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. The outcome is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes lead to damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. Scientists are still searching 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 unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a little less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Sometimes, people will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). Scientists still aren’t sure precisely what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing problems was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. Long covid seems to initiate a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s one single story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not necessarily enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment guidance. That’s why research is so crucial.
As scientists unearth more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively widespread, they’re able to create a clearer picture of the dangers involving Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to understand. Research is continuing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. No matter how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still essential that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it once was, call us to schedule an appointment.