If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear ear protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Likewise, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But there’s a new kid on the block, and you can most likely 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 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 uncovered constantly by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather early and is still waiting for more data to back it 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 absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine triggers 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 vastly outweighed by the benefits. Speak with your doctor and find 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 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?
Scientists have a couple of theories. These theories, we should point out, aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among scientists is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. Your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked, after all. There are two ways this could cause hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. After the symptoms clear up, your hearing will typically go back to normal (this wouldn’t be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s essential to remember that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. This can cause damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular links between your brain and your ears occurs because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would probably be essentially permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is related to inflammation. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. It’s unclear, 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 second hypothesis is a bit murkier in terms of 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.
People 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 lasts for months (or longer). There’s no doubt, Long Covid is real, but scientists are still unsure why.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. Here’s what the review discovered:
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just in relation to it isn’t very clear, but it’s safe to say there’s a relationship of some kind. Long covid seems to cause a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Evidence or anecdote?
When somebody talks about how they got Covid and haven’t been able to hear the same since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s story. When scientists are attempting to develop a treatment plan, these personal accounts, 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 unearth more evidence that these hearing complications are fairly extensive, they’re able to establish a clearer understanding of the hazards related to Covid-19.
We certainly have to understand more. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. It’s crucial to get help as soon as you can regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you think you may be developing hearing loss.