If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t use ear protection, you may experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are fairly common. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same illness that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also result in hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And scientists are learning something new about it every day. 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 right now.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So, let’s get this off the table right away: There’s utterly no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. Vaccines don’t impact your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still vastly exceed the risks for the majority of individuals. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s talk about hearing loss.
So, how does Covid trigger hearing loss?
But, how does this trigger hearing loss? Specifically, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 causes inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation eventually affects your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. This may result in hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. After the symptoms subside, your hearing will typically go back to normal (if this occurs, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to reproduce. The consequence is damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears occurs because of the way Covid impacts your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. Researchers are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly 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 next hypothesis is more significant when it comes to patients’ experience, but a little less comprehended with regards to cause and effect. At this point, you’ve probably heard about something called Long Covid.
Patients will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, researchers published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory complications caused by Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t entirely clear, but it goes without saying there’s a relationship of some kind. Long covid seems to trigger 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 only one person’s story. When scientists are attempting to come up with a treatment strategy, these individual accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so crucial.
As researchers obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are fairly widespread, they’re able to generate a clearer understanding of the hazards associated with Covid-19.
We certainly need to learn more. Research is continuing, which means the connection between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. It’s important to get help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, give us a call to schedule an appointment.