COVID-19 Hearing Loss Is With Us

COVID-19 Hearing Loss Is With Us

Medical scientists have known for a while that hearing loss can follow damage to the vestibular inner ear. Scientists at University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre in England already knew measles, mumps and meningitis could damage those sensory nerves when they began their research.

But could the coronavirus all around us cause COVID-19 hearing loss too, they wondered. This was an interesting theory. But they knew they had to prove it without infecting people with the disease to see what happened.

The Scientific Method They Followed Instead

The scientists decided to review available literature from other research through December 2020 (see link below). The fact they only published their findings on March 22, 2021 shows how detailed their research was and how thorough the peer reviews were.

The team comprising of Professor Kevin Munro and PhD researcher, Ibrahim Almufarrij, discovered 56 studies reporting a link between COVID-19 and auditory and vestibular problems.

They realized there was something in their theory regarding COVID-19 hearing loss, when the data revealed the following from 24 pooled studies of ‘young and older adults’:

  • 6% of the subjects in the study complained about hearing loss
  • 8% of the individuals in the pooled data reported tinnitus
  • Equally interesting, 7.2% suffered from vertigo loss of balance

How Does This Compare with the U.S. Population?

Hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo occur in the general population. Therefore, the results in the small sample would need to be greater than the national average, to be able to speak of COVID-19 hearing loss.

  • 2% of adults have disabling hearing loss they would notice
  • This increases to 8.5% for adults aged 55 to 64
  • Nearly 15% of U.S. adults experience some form of tinnitus
  • As many as 50% of them experience long or short term vertigo

There appears to be some additional COVID-19 hearing loss among young and older people. We are only dealing with a small sample at this stage, although more research is in the pipe line.

There Were Some Limitations to the Study

Professor Kevin Munro and PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij relied on data collected by other researchers. Those earlier studies primarily used self-reported questionnaires, or medical records to identify COVID-19-related symptoms, rather than more scientifically-reliable hearing tests.

Therefore, those earlier researchers relied on what their subjects shared with them. All we really know for sure about them is they were ‘confirmed, probable and suspected COVID-19 patients’.

And deafness, as we know is ‘in the ear of the beholder’. Many of us heard a deaf person shouting ‘I am not deaf’ when we tactfully ask ‘Why don’t you get a rechargeable hearing aid? Blue Angels Hearing has some amazing specials on the go right now.’

The Science Behind Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, and Vertigo

The sensory systems behind these conditions reside in our inner ears (behind our ear drums) and in our brains when it comes to tinnitus. Those areas manage our hearing, our eye movements, and our balance, and they are generally irreparable if they suffer damage.

Medical professionals may not even have known of COVID-19 hearing loss among people with the disease in hospitals. The only thing that’s apparent from this small study is the ratio of deaf people may increase as a result of the pandemic.

The Parts of the Internal Ear

The inner ear (or internal one as scientists prefer) is largely responsible for sound detection, and balance. The outer ear is just the conduit collecting information about external sound, and relative air pressure. But of course if it were blocked, perhaps by wax, then the system could not work properly, if at all.

The two main parts of this system are the cochlea and the vestibule:

  • The cochlea converts sound pressure patterns from the outer ear into electrochemical impulses. These then pass to the brain for interpretation by following the auditory nerve.
  • The vestibule has the job of managing our balance. It does this by generating our sense of equilibrium, and making rapid compensatory movements in response to our own and externally generated forces.

Disorders That May Be Triggering COVID-19 Hearing Loss

The COVID-19 virus invades human body cells, and damages them while it replicates inside. We have no idea how the virus is causing those particular symptoms. However, these are the two commonest inner ear disorders and there seem to be clues

  • Auto immune inner ear disease is a defense against invading germs, like bacteria and viruses. It causes rapidly progressive sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • Labyrinthitis, caused by viral and bacterial infections induces temporary nausea, disorientation, vertigo, and dizziness. The sensations are similar to having blocked ears

Mild to moderate hearing loss can develop gradually - or suddenly after disease or physical trauma. The damage is highly unlikely to self-repair, meaning the affected person has to learn to live with it as successfully as they can.

Blue Angels rechargeable hearing aids could help correct mild to moderate hearing loss caused by aging systems. We also have feedback they help manage tinnitus.

It’s up to you to decide if you want to try them for COVID-19 hearing loss too. This is a breaking-news symptom we are still learning about. However, you could return them for a refund if they did not improve your hearing, provided they are in new condition per our return and refund policy.

More Reading

How Do I Put In a Hearing Aid?

Hearing Aid Devices for Your TV

Manchester University Report

The Structure of the Inner Ear