While none of us were familiar with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year, we have all certainly heard plenty about it by now. And although the news stories about the novel coronavirus have not seemed to slow down in the past six months, there is still much about this virus that is unknown. What has been established, however, is that COVID-19 presents in many different ways with many different symptoms.
Although many symptoms of COVID-19 are respiratory in nature, not all of them are. As we are learning more about this virus and the way it affects our bodies, there is one question that has appeared among both the general population and the medical science community: Can COVID-19 cause hearing loss? And if so, should people be on the lookout for hearing loss as a symptom of the virus?
First, it is important to remember that, as noted, we do not know everything about this virus yet. Our knowledge about COVID-19 continues to grow, and further studies may change some of the information shared here.
That being said, there is some evidence that COVID-19 can cause neurological symptoms as well as respiratory ones. In a study of 214 coronavirus patients, 36.4 percent reported symptoms of neurological manifestations that involved the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and skeletal system. Furthermore, initial research indicates that the virus may cause damage to the sensitive hearing organs of the inner ear.
Another study of 120 COVID-19 patients surveyed whether they noticed any changes in their hearing. 13 percent responded that their hearing was worse. Eight patients reported that their hearing ability had deteriorated, while eight patients said that they had tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Currently, there is little scientific evidence regarding whether coronavirus can lead to tinnitus. However, people who struggle with depression, anxiety, stress, or isolation may be at greater risk for chronic tinnitus. Unfortunately, stress, depression, and anxiety have all run high in recent months as people have worried about contracting the virus and have isolated themselves in their homes. These factors may cause a rise in cases of tinnitus.
Ototoxicity is another potential hazard. Ototoxicity is damage to the ear and hearing ability due to exposure to certain drugs or chemicals. Some vaccines are known to carry the risk of ototoxicity. As a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is still in the development phases, it is possible that the vaccine may pose a risk for ototoxicity.
Although little published evidence is currently available regarding the connection between hearing loss and COVID-19, it is never wasted to pay attention to your hearing ability. If you feel that your hearing ability has changed or deteriorated, seek the help of a hearing professional. If you notice any known symptoms of COVID-19, you should speak with a medical professional and consider being tested for the virus. Telemedicine and curbside services are available in many areas to limit your contact with other people and thus minimize the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.
If you would like to learn more about the possible connection between COVID-19 and hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to care for you.