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 noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather 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 may also result in hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of actually understanding Covid-19. And scientists are discovering something new about it every day. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand at the moment.
Does the Covid vaccine produce hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the currently approved vaccines have this in common. That just isn’t 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 dinner.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For the majority of people, the risks are greatly outweighed by the advantages. Speak to your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Specifically, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This may trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to get out or drain efficiently. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms clear up (this would not be an instance of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. This can cause damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain occurs because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. Scientists are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s unknown, based on this research, just 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 next theory is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less understood with regards to cause and effect. At this point, you’ve most likely heard of something called Long Covid.
Long Covid is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, people will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review found:
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- 7.6% of individuals reported hearing loss after becoming ill with Covid.
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
There’s certainly a connection between Long Covid and hearing issues, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect association. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one single story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not actually enough for researchers to go on when formulating treatment guidance. So research is key here.
As researchers uncover more evidence that these hearing difficulties are fairly widespread, they’re able to establish a clearer image of the dangers involving Covid-19.
Obviously, there’s still more to understand. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is ongoing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still essential that you seek treatment as soon as possible. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, give us a call to schedule an appointment.