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 noisy factory floor and don’t use ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. 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.
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? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of really understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being identified all of the time by scientists. 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 right now.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hearing loss?
So, let’s get this out of the way right away: There’s absolutely no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine causes hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and available vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for lunch.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more conventional ones. For the majority of individuals, the risks are greatly outweighed by the benefits. 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 discuss hearing loss.
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 usually permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should mention, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They can both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. This might trigger hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. Once the symptoms clear up, your hearing will typically go back to normal (if this takes place, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Remember that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. This can cause damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears happens because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would most likely be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. 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 type of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next theory is more significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Patients will go through symptoms of Covid when they are dealing with 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 question, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory difficulties due to Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
- 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 unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. Long covid seems to cause 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 narrative. When scientists are trying to come up with a treatment plan, these personal accounts, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. That’s why research is so critical.
As researchers uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are fairly extensive, they’re able to establish a clearer image of the risks involving Covid-19.
We certainly need to learn more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is continuing. Regardless of how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you get treatment as soon as possible. So call us if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.