If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t use ear protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t use ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But within the last few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People all around the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that may include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. There is some research which indicates 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 let’s have a look at where things stand at the moment.
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 causes hearing loss. That’s true for all of the currently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for dinner.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly surpass the risks for most people. Speak with 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 cause hearing loss?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Particularly, how does it cause the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea 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 escape or drain properly. As this fluid builds up, hearing becomes difficult. In these situations, your hearing will typically go back to normal once your symptoms subside (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. The outcome is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can in some cases cause damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be effectively permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. There’s still an ongoing effort by scientists to find a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unknown, based on this research, just 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 in terms of the cause and effect, but more corroborated in terms of patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their body. Sometimes, patients 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 are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that looked at data about long-term auditory complications caused by Covid-19. The review found that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported experiencing tinnitus
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
There’s definitely a link between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s not known if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. A variety of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing hasn’t been the same since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s narrative. When scientists are trying to develop a treatment strategy, these individual accounts, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. So research is key here.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively prevalent, they’re able to create a clearer image of the hazards related to Covid-19.
We definitely need to understand more. 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 important that you seek treatment as soon as possible. So give us a call if you think you might be developing hearing loss.