You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you regularly expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These are pretty common and widely known causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
People across the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of really understanding Covid-19. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more data 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 remember: There’s utterly no evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers 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 eating a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For most people, the risks are vastly exceeded by the benefits. Speak to your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
But, how can this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does it cause the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally 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
The first compelling theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. This may produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels narrower, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. As this fluid accumulates, it becomes harder to hear. In these cases, your hearing will typically go back to normal once your symptoms subside (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: Keep in mind that viruses use your body’s own cells to replicate. This can result in damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes cause damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often be helpful. Researchers are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s unknown, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this sort of damage, but it seems obvious that 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 comprehended with regards to 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. Sometimes, people will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that drags on 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 problems was systematically reviewed by researchers and a report was published in February 2021. The review found that:
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
There’s certainly a connection between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. A variety of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
It’s anecdotal when somebody says that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s only one person’s story. When researchers are trying to devise a treatment strategy, these individual accounts, while they are part of day-to-day life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. So research is key here.
Scientists will be able to get a clearer understanding about the dangers of Covid as they obtain more information about how prevalent these complications are.
We certainly have to learn more. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t necessarily proven or unproven. It’s essential to seek help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So call us if you think you might be developing hearing loss.