If you’re exposed to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear hearing protection, hearing loss may be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But within the last few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same illness that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of really understanding Covid-19. And scientists are learning something new about it all the time. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand currently.
Does the Covid vaccine trigger hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to remember: There’s utterly no evidence 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 affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like blaming your diabetes on the salad you had for dinner.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. For most individuals, the risks are greatly exceeded by the benefits. If you have questions about vaccines, be certain to talk to your doctor, and get answers 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 triggered by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does it trigger the type of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is usually permanent, known as sensorineural hearing loss?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. Either one of them could cause hearing loss or both together.
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the concept is that this inflammation eventually impacts your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. This may cause 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. In these cases, your hearing will usually return to normal after your symptoms clear up (this would not be an example of sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: Remember that viruses utilize your body’s own cells to replicate. This can result in damage. And because Covid affects your vascular system, this can sometimes lead to damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be effectively permanent.
Steroids are sometimes prescribed when hearing loss is caused by inflammation. There’s still a continuing effort by scientists to discover a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. It’s unclear, based on this research, just how much protection vaccines give you against this type of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second hypothesis is a little murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more corroborated with regards to patients’ experience. By now, you’ve probably heard of something called Long Covid.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Sometimes, patients will experience a minor bout of Covid followed by a debilitating Long Covid experience that lasts 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, researchers published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory complications due to Covid-19. The review found that:
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- After getting Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of individuals.
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
Whether these auditory complications are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t very clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of 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 single story. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it isn’t actually enough for researchers to go on when devising treatment plans. That’s why research is so crucial.
Researchers will be able to get a better understanding about the hazards of Covid as they gather more information about how extensive these difficulties are.
Of course, there’s still more to learn. The connection between Covid and hearing loss isn’t either proven or unproven at this time and research is continuing. Regardless of how your hearing loss develops, however, it’s still essential that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So if you think your hearing isn’t what it once was, contact us to make an appointment.