In 2020, COVID-19 began to rapidly spread across the globe, leaving lockdowns, healthcare emergencies, and economic ruin in its wake. Even though science has spent the last couple of years researching the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection, we still know relatively little about the long and short-term impact on our health.
There are many links between the Coronavirus and long-term complications, such as lung and heart damage, neurological disorders, etc. One area of research that we know less about is the effect of COVID-19 on hearing health and potential hearing loss, either as a symptom or a long-term complication. Here at Hearing Group, our hearing experts break down the evidence and try to answer the question — is there a connection between COVID-19 and Hearing loss?
Coronavirus and Sudden Hearing Loss
There have been various unsubstantiated reports that the newer Delta strain is more likely to cause earaches than other variants. This may be due to Delta causing more upper respiratory symptoms, which puts more pressure on the ears and potentially causes ear infections.
As for hearing loss, COVID-19 appears to very rarely be associated with it. A couple of published articles have seen patients report a sudden sensorineural hearing loss, but COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be a common side effect of Coronavirus.
Hearing Loss as a Side Effect of Long Covid
Long-covid has become something of an unseen public health crisis. The lasting impact of COVID-19 and its side effects have been plaguing people worldwide who “recovered” from the virus itself weeks or months ago. As for hearing loss impacting people weeks or months after contracting COVID-19, it seems as though it is more common.
A review pulled together the data on auditory problems after recovering from COVID-19 and found that 7.6% of people reported hearing loss, while 14.8% of people reported tinnitus. Although these figures support the idea that there is a link between COVID-19 and hearing loss, it is also worth noting the lack of reliable studies on this issue.
Could Medications Cause Hearing Loss?
One of the more common causes of hearing loss is actually the frequent usage of certain medications. These ototoxic medications damage the auditory system and often cause permanent hearing loss.
There is evidence to suggest that some medications like quinine, chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine, which are sometimes used to treat COVID-19, have a high risk of causing hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing-related problems. It is, therefore, possible that people experiencing hearing loss during or after COVID-19 could actually be affected by the ototoxicity of their medication.
Hearing Loss and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Although some side effects have been associated with the widespread rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, it appears as though there is no link between the vaccines and hearing loss. Research carried out by John Hopkins School of Medicine found no link between the two.
As the world looks to have found a way to live with the COVID-19 virus, it seems as though there will be more focus on the long-term effects of Coronavirus and the medications/vaccines that have been developed to fight it. The validity of a link between COVID-19 and hearing loss appears to change depending on the research, and therefore it is clear that more research is needed for us to fully understand the effects of this infamous virus.
Are you experiencing hearing loss? Find out more about your hearing health by booking your hearing test appointment with the hearing specialists at Hearing Group.