If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Hearing loss may be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can probably guess who it is: 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 a very new virus. And something new about it is being identified constantly by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather early and is still waiting for more facts to back it up. So where is this research currently at.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t impact your ears at all. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for lunch.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still vastly surpass the risks for the majority of people. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to 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 caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all connected, after all. This may produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels smaller, making it more difficult for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to build up. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will normally go back to normal (if this occurs, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. The result is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears occurs because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to determine a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. 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 hypothesis is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended with regards to 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 well after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, patients will experience a minor 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 doubt it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
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. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one single story. When scientists are trying to come up with a treatment strategy, these individual accounts, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. So research is critical here.
As researchers uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are fairly extensive, they’re able to create a clearer image of the dangers involving Covid-19.
Of course, there’s still more to learn. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s essential to seek help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, call us to make an appointment.