If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t use ear protection, you might experience hearing loss down the road. Likewise, if you work on a busy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But there’s a new fighter in the ring, and you can probably guess who it is: Covid-19.
That’s right, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the last couple of years might also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early phases of completely understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being identified all of the time by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked 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 trigger hearing loss?
So, let’s get this off the table right away: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. All of the presently approved vaccines have this in common. That’s just not how these vaccines work, they don’t impact your ears at all. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you ate for lunch.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the advantages of these vaccines still greatly surpass the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to your doctor, and get information from a reputable source.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss triggered by this? Particularly, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually irreversible, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Scientists have a couple of theories. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
The first compelling theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately affect your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. There are a couple of ways this might cause hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. It becomes more and more difficult to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. In these cases, your hearing will typically return to normal once your symptoms clear up (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to remember that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. This can result in damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can in some cases cause damage to the vascular links between your ears and your brain. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically permanent.
Steroids are occasionally prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this kind of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is unknown, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more significant in regards to patients’ experience, but a bit less understood with regards to cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which people experience symptoms from Covid long after the actual virus has left their system. Sometimes, patients will experience a mild bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that looked at data about long-term auditory problems due to Covid-19. Here’s what the review found:
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- 14.8% reported developing tinnitus
Whether these auditory difficulties are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t entirely clear, but it’s safe to say there’s some kind of relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s one individual narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not actually enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment guidance. So research is key here.
Scientists will be able to get a better comprehension about the dangers of Covid as they collect more data about how widespread these complications are.
Of course, there’s still more to understand. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. It’s important to seek 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.