COVID-19 precautions put hard-of-hearing people at a disadvantage. They oblige them to stand farther apart, and to make things worse, face masks muffle sounds. They also prevent reading people’s lips. If you are hard of hearing coronavirus definitely makes the situation worse.
Living with Hearing Aids In The Wake of Coronavirus
Yielding to the temptation to step closer to another person increases the possibility of contracting COVID-19 if they are already ill. This is because we come within droplet range and the virus could land on our faces and hands.
They could also land on our hearing aids if a nearby infected person coughs behind us. This is why we need to maintain our distance at all times and step aside if we hear footsteps behind us. Well, that’s if we hear them of course.
This line of reasoning suggests we need to wash our hands after we handle our hearing aids. Washing hands means massaging soapy lather all over, including hands fingers and forearms for twenty seconds. This is the time it takes to dissolve the virus’s oily barrier and ensure we’re being preventative.
Is Hearing Loss a Rare Sign of COVID-19 Infection?
The American Association of Retired People (AARP) published a report on the link between ear symptoms of coronavirus and hearing loss. Elias Michaelides of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says some temporary hearing loss accompanies all upper respiratory viral infections.
This is because the mucous membranes ‘tend to get stuffy’ and sometimes fluid can build up behind the eardrums. This ‘damage’ is temporary and often clears of its own accord once the infection has passed.
Tinnitus, Loss of Hearing and Coronavirus Infections
However, the AARP reports more persistent coronavirus-related hearing difficulties in the UK. A report appearing in the International Journal of Audiology says 13% of a sample of 121 people experienced changes in hearing / tinnitus after diagnosing with COVID-19.
However, it seems ear symptoms and coronavirus go deeper than that. A John Hopkins School of Medicine team found signs of the coronavirus in the middle ears of some deceased COVID-19 patients. Unfortunately this was a side show to their main research and they did not investigate further.
Probing Deeper Into the Relationship between Coronavirus and Hearing
The author of the John Hopkins study, C. Matthew Stewart, explains how a viral invasion in the middle ear would cause infection. And how this infection could result in impaired hearing, tinnitus, dizziness, and balancing issues.
Moreover, an infection in the lungs – including from COVID-19 - reduces their efficiency, and hence the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. We already know the cochlear hair cells that process sound vibrations are especially vulnerable to damage from restricted oxygen and blood supply.
However, scientific consensus says there is insufficient evidence to directly link a SARS-CoV-2 infection and hearing problems. But Stewart believes ‘we can be reasonably suspicious’ of a relationship between problems with hearing, coronavirus and ear symptoms in some patients.
How Medication and Masks Add Spin to the Situation
Two more factors muddy the water when probing whether hearing loss is a sign of a COVID-19 infection. Both of these have to do with medical care. Older patients, particularly, suffer hearing loss as a symptom because they are ill, as opposed to this being caused directly by the virus.
In the second instance, Stewart says several COVID-19 treatment drugs – including remdesivir, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are ototoxic. This means they may damage the cochlea and the vestibulo-cochlear nerve, thereby impairing hearing and affecting balance.
Face masks too are having unusual consequences. Elias Michaelides of Rush University whom we mentioned earlier says the stream of patients reporting hearing loss is not always coronavirus-related. It’s sometimes because face masks are making conversation less intelligible.
What’s the Best Way to Tackle Temporary Hearing Difficulties?
It’s become clear there are links between hearing and coronavirus. And that in many cases these will be temporary impairments. It therefore may not make sense to spend thousands of dollars on famous-brand hearing aids, and then perhaps only use them for a few months.
It could also be rash to be in close contact at a hearing aid provider while testing for ‘coronavirus’ hearing aids. Shopping on line has made great strides, and is now generally user friendly. Perhaps it’s time to source hearing aids this way too.
Thousands of People Will Do This at Blue Angels Hearing This Year
Thousands of people from every walk of life are streaming in orders for a pair of digital hearing aids costing under $200 including shipping. That’s because they help them hear what people are saying without increasing their risk of infection. It’s our real privilege to be able to help them through these unusual times.