COVID-19 & Hearing Loss: Is There a Connection?

The coronavirus has continually been linked to several long-term complications, but is there a link between COVID-19 and hearing loss? Researchers already are aware that different types of bacterial infections and viral infections can lead to sudden hearing loss.

While older coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS, appear to not cause hearing loss or complications, COVID-19 seems to have a different effect. Let’s take a closer look at the emerging connection between COVID-19 and hearing loss. 

Is Hearing Loss a COVID-19 Symptom?

While the loss of taste and smell are both symptoms of COVID-19, the loss of hearing isn’t as prevalent. However, some patients have reported the loss of hearing in one ear. In a report from June 2020, multiple patients in Iran reported the loss of hearing in a single ear. At the same time, some patients reported vertigo. 

And this isn’t the only report that documents hearing loss as a symptom of COVID-19. Another report covering sudden sensorineural hearing loss and COVID-19 documented an Egyptian man that had no other coronavirus symptoms that suddenly developed hearing loss. 

He tested positive for coronavirus. Outside of these reports, there has not been significant research published that connects hearing loss as a coronavirus symptom.

Is Hearing Loss a Complication of the Coronavirus? 

What does seem to be a bit more common (yet still rare) is suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus as a result of contracting COVID-19. This means it may not be a part of the initial onset, but can develop later. 

According to the BMJ Case Reports medical journal reported in October 2020, a 45-year old British man with asthma experienced sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in one ear after he was seriously ill with COVID-19. He suffered several severe symptoms and was eventually placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. While there he received a blood transfusion, IV steroids, and the antiviral drug remdesivir. 

About a week after being taken off the ventilator, he noticed sudden hearing loss and a ringing in his left ear. Ear specialists didn’t notice any inflammation or blockages, but a hearing test did confirm that he lost a substantial amount of hearing. After tablets and steroid injections, his hearing did partially recover. 

However, the most significant statement regarding COVID-19 and hearing loss are the results from a United Kingdom survey. According to a report from Taylor & Francis medical journal, almost one in 10 COVID-19 patients have self-reported either tinnitus or hearing loss eight weeks later. 

Even though it’s difficult to confirm whether COVID-19 directly caused hearing loss, it seems likely to be the case. The theory is amplified when you consider the British man didn’t receive any drugs with hearing loss as a side effect, which is known as ototoxicity. 

It’s worth noting that holistic research has failed to connect hearing loss, tinnitus, and COVID-19. Yet if you do test positive for COVID and experience hearing loss, it’s vital you seek immediate medical attention to improve the likelihood of restoring your hearing. 

Can the Virus Make Its Way to the Middle Ear Bones?

When infecting the body, COVID-19 tends to attach certain types of cells found in the blood and lungs. The virus has also been found in similar cells located in the middle ear. The virus tends to cause an inflammatory response in the body and can cause the chemical that may lead to hearing loss to spike.

According to a letter published on July 23, 2020 in the JAMA Network medical journal, an autopsy report discovered the COVID-19 virus in middle ear bones. And in this report, a German man experienced profound, acute hearing loss following the development of COVID-19-related pneumonia.

How Can COVID-19-Related Hearing Loss Be Treated?

According to physicians at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital and from University College London, the hearing loss may be treatable and even reversible if recognized early. As reported in the BMJ Case Reports, immediate steroids are the most suitable way to improve an individual’s prognosis. 

Contact the Hearing Specialists at North Shore Hearing P.C. 

Sudden hearing loss can stem from the flu, viral infections, bacterial infections, and other causes. So far, however, very few cases have been linked to the coronavirus, which has led to a lack of reporting. Even so, given the widespread prevalence of the virus, we can expect more research and attention paid to the association between COVID-19 and hearing loss. 

Contact the team at North Shore Hearing P.C. to schedule a hearing exam.

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