You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Hearing loss may be in your future, for instance, if you work on a loud factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But within the last few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same disease that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years might also result in hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still an extremely novel virus. And something new about it is being uncovered all of the time by scientists. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat early and is still waiting for more information to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand currently.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hearing loss?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: There’s absolutely no proof that the Covid-19 vaccine leads to hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like consuming a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it caused your diabetes.
This is true of both the established vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still vastly outweigh the risks for the majority of 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 cleared that up.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does it trigger the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to the auditory system which is normally 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
The first substantial theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes considerable inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can eventually impact your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all linked. There are two ways this might cause hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage channels smaller, making it harder for fluid to escape or drain efficiently. As this fluid builds up, it becomes harder to hear. In these instances, your hearing will typically go back to normal after your symptoms subside (if this happens, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s important to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by taking over your body’s own cells. This can cause damage. In some cases, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears takes place because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be generally irreversible.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. There’s still an ongoing 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 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 when it comes to the cause and effect, but more substantiated with regards to patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have most likely heard about.
Long Covid is a condition in which patients experience symptoms from Covid well after the actual virus has left their body. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that lasts for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. Scientists are still unsure just what causes Long Covid, but there’s no denying it’s a real thing.
In February of 2021, scientists published a systematic review that evaluated data about long-term auditory complications resulting from Covid-19. The review discovered that:
- 7.6% of people reported hearing impairment after getting Covid.
- 7.2% of individuals reported vertigo
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
There’s certainly a link between Long Covid and hearing problems, but it’s unknown if there’s a direct cause and effect association. A host of symptoms, including hearing problems, come from Long Covid.
Anecdote or evidence?
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 researchers are attempting to devise a treatment plan, these individual stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for scientists to go on. So research is critical here.
As scientists obtain more evidence that these hearing complications are relatively extensive, they’re able to establish a clearer image of the risks associated with Covid-19.
We definitely have to learn more. Research is ongoing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. It’s crucial to seek help as soon as possible regardless of how your hearing loss developed. So give us a call if you think you might be experiencing hearing loss.