How can coronavirus impact your hearing? As experts continue to learn about the novel coronavirus, they are identifying new impacts it can have on a person’s health. Recently, they are discovering that the coronavirus can actually affect the infected person’s hearing weeks after infection.
There have been a few cases of people who have contracted the coronavirus presenting with sudden hearing loss in one or both ears, tinnitus, aural fullness, and vertigo. In some autopsy reports, coronavirus was identified in the middle ear bones (malleus, incus, stapes) that are integral for hearing. It is important to note that COVID-19 is not the first viral infection that can produce sudden onset hearing loss, the flu can also cause hearing loss.
There are a few theories on how coronavirus can impact or cause sudden hearing loss and related auditory side effects.
- Inflammatory response to COVID may cause the body to increase production of chemicals which can have damaging effects on the inner ear.
- The virus attacks specific lung and blood cells similar to ones found in the inner ear.
- COVID is known to cause vascular changes, which the inner ear is susceptible to.
- Medications used in treatment of the coronavirus can be ototoxic. Ototoxicity is a term used to describe a drug that has a known impact on hearing. The use of these drugs will cause changes in hearing and other auditory symptoms.
In some cases hearing loss due to a viral infection can be treated with steroids to improve the outcome. In one case, a person with sudden hearing loss following a COVID-19 infection had improved hearing after their steroid treatment. Steroid treatments are only effective if treatment begins soon after the sudden hearing loss is noted. The Hearing Review estimates the timeframe for effective treatment is 2-4 weeks from onset of hearing loss.
So far hearing loss in association to contracting coronavirus is rare, but it is still possible. It is reported that more research needs to be produced to identify the relationship between hearing loss and COVID-19.
If you have noticed a sudden change in hearing, aural fullness, or vertigo it is important to take note and take action. Early intervention is the key to addressing sudden changes in your auditory system. Go see your local hearing care professional for treatment and advice.