If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t use ear protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These are fairly common and well known causes of hearing loss. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can most likely guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s right, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely new virus. And something new about it is being discovered constantly by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat early 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 trigger hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been confirmed to cause 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 like that. 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 the majority of people, the risks are greatly exceeded by the benefits. Talk to your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the type of hearing loss that results from damage to your auditory system and is generally permanent?
Scientists have a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 creates inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the idea is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. There are two ways this might lead to hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain properly. As this fluid accumulates, hearing becomes difficult. In these circumstances, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. The consequence is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular connections between your ears and your brain takes place because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can sometimes 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 type of damage, but it’s safe to say it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a bit murkier when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated in terms of patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which people experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their system. 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.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that examined data about long-term auditory problems resulting from Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
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. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that impact your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when somebody states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one individual narrative. When researchers are attempting to develop a treatment strategy, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so crucial.
As scientists uncover more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively prevalent, they’re able to create a clearer image of the dangers associated with Covid-19.
We undoubtedly need to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this point and research is continuing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still important that you seek out treatment as soon as you can. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to make an appointment.