Covid-19 took the world by storm in early 2020. Since then much research has been done on the virus, but still a lot is unknown. Symptoms and long-term effects of Covid-19 have yet to be discovered, but there have been some connections found between the virus and hearing loss.
Once again research is currently being conducted on how hearing loss relates to Covid-19; nothing has been fully scientifically proven. Healthy Hearing reports that “one emerging area of research is whether hearing loss can result from coronavirus infection- either as a symptom or as a complication days or weeks later.” There are viruses and bacterial infections that have been known to cause hearing loss like, Mumps, Measles, Rubella, and Cytomegalovirus. Viruses are thought to cause hearing loss due to affecting the auditory nerve which can cause “direct damage to the inner ear, induce inflammatory responses, increase susceptibility to bacterial or fungal infection” which can all directly lead to hearing loss (soundscouts.com). The type of hearing loss caused by viruses can result in conductive, mixed, or sensorineural hearing loss and in some cases the hearing loss is temporary; eventually restoring hearing to the pre-virus/infection levels. In more severe cases, the hearing loss is permanent and would require care, like from an audiologist.
In relation to Covid-19, hearing loss is not a common symptom, but found in more extreme cases with the hearing loss developing one to two weeks after having Covid. It was found that “7.6% of people report hearing loss, 14.8% report tinnitus, and 7.2% report vertigo” (healthyhearing.com), all issues relating to the auditory nerve. Tinnitus has been found in some individuals with Covid-19 a few months after they have recovered from the virus. Hearing loss and the damage to the auditory nerve are not defining characteristics of tinnitus, stress and lifestyle habits like sleep and diet, also play a major role in the onset of tinnitus. This is causing researchers to believe that Covid-19 has caused the tinnitus. Another prominent factor is the anxiety, physical, emotional, and mental stress caused from the virus and the pandemic itself.
In the future, we can look forward to seeing research about how/if Covid-19 is damaging the auditory system with the use of electrophysiological testing, like ABR, auditory brainstem response and OAEs, otoacoustic measurements. Along with research on the relationship of the virus with dizziness, balance issues, and tinnitus.
If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing difficulty or trouble, consult your local audiologist or hearing care professional for management.