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Can COVID-19 Affect Our Hearing?


The COVID-19 pandemic has settled down but is still making waves across the world. It may never go completely away. A big question remains—can COVID-19 negatively impact our hearing temporarily or permanently? Likely not. But there’s a whole lot to unwrap regarding that topic.

Covid enters through our mouths and noses as we breathe in and out. There are passages linking our throats to our middle ears. That may explain how COVID-19 can affect our hearing.

Those passages - well our Eustachian Tubes really - equalize the pressure on each side of our middle ears, and help clear mucus from our system. They also close during unwanted pressure fluctuations and loud sounds. We may become aware of them on an airplane flight following altitude changes.

COVID-19 Can Affect Our Hearing, Cause Vertigo and Tinnitus?

News Medical and Life Sciences has been of the world’s leading open-access medical and life science hubs, since 2004. They confirm several well-known viral infections - including measles, mumps and meningitis - can cause hearing problems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in reports of audio-vestibular symptoms. This is the part of our inner ear that manages eye movements and balance. Any interference can cause dizziness (vertigo) and subjective hearing loss.

Research Suggests COVID Link to Hearing Loss, Vertigo, and Tinnitus

Scientists at University of Manchester, England systematically reviewed data to probe the relationship. Their approaches synthesized a broad knowledge base without time-consuming pure research. Their findings, reported in International Journal of Audiology confirm COVID-19 can affect our hearing.

  • Between 7% and 15% of adult COVID-19 patients report audio-vestibular symptoms.
  • Tinnitus ringing in the ears is the commonest complaint, followed by hearing loss and then vertigo.

COVID-19 Related TINNITUS

The University of Manchester scientists based their findings on seven studies. These confirmed a link between audio-vestibular symptoms, and COVID-19 causing the global pandemic. They concluded two possible reasons for COVID-tinnitus.

The virus might attack and damage the auditory system. Alternatively, mental and emotional stress might trigger an attack.

Diagram Showing Location of Eustachian Tube

COVID-19 Related HEARING LOSS

However, the researchers were uncertain whether there was a direct link between COVID-19 and hearing loss. They found a wide range of reports of hearing loss at different ages and levels of severity.

These came from a small group of patients who complained of sensorineural, conductive, or mixed hearing loss. But the researchers were unable to explain why the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, was not matched by a similar increase in global deafness.

COVID-19 Related VERTIGO and Other Complaints

Patients in the study also reported dizziness. However, the researchers lacked information to distinguish this from damage to the balance system itself.

There were also reports in the News Medical and Life Sciences article of otalgia ear ache, otitis media middle ear infection, changes to the ear canal, ear congestion, and ear fullness associated with deafness.

These various factors lead the scientists at University of Manchester to suspect a link between COVID-19 and affected hearing. However, the data came from case reports and surveys, which rely on self-reported information.

UK Case of COVID-19 Causing Permanent Hearing Loss

Reports direct from doctors are generally more reliable than patient recollections. British Medical Journal reports a case of sudden irreversible sensoneural hearing loss following COVID-19, which they summarize as follows:

  • Sudden permanent hearing loss from the coronavirus is uncommon but does occur.
  • Awareness of this side effect is important, because early treatment can reverse it.
  • The condition occasionally comes to attention of specialists after other viral infections.
  • Those viral infections include flu, herpes, and cytomegalovirus causing hearing loss.

This particular case affected a 45 year old man with chronic asthma. Doctors referred him to an ear nose and throat specialist, after he lost hearing in one ear while hospitalized for COVID-19. He had previously been on a ventilator for 30 days after reporting trouble breathing.

He recovered after receiving remdesivir, intravenous steroids and a blood transfusion. However, a week after doctors removed his breathing tube, he reported ringing tinnitus followed by abrupt hearing loss in the same ear.

Hearing loss was something new for him. Apart from the asthma he was fit and healthy, He tested negative for rheumatoid arthritis, flu and HIV. But he recovered some hearing after receiving steroid tablets and injections. Doctors concluded COVID-19 could have affected his hearing.

If COVID-19 Could Affect Our Hearing, What Does This Mean For Us?

This case study confirms the need to take sudden hearing loss seriously, and consult a doctor urgently. Sudden hearing loss does not only happen if we catch the COVID virus though. It’s more likely to be the result of another infection. Treat it soon, and it may return to normal.

Millions of American Have Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

As many as a third of our aging compatriots may have partial hearing loss. However, in this case the condition is most likely to be a natural result of aging. A modern digital hearing aid improves the quality of sound before it reaches the inner ear for processing.

We would be kidding you if we said hearing aids are as good the natural thing. They don’t restore hearing permanently, but they should make normal conversation flow more naturally. Blue Angels has helped over 35,000 customers improve their hearing. Would you like to join them by clicking here now?