The COVID-19 coronavirus has had devastating effects for many, but thankfully the wonders of modern medicine have allowed us to control and mitigate the effects of the virus in record time. Nevertheless, we have also seen a great deal of complications arise from catching it, from neurological disorders to heart and lung damage. One that you may perhaps not have heard of, however, is the link that the virus has with hearing loss.
Research is being made into that connection as the relationship between other viral and bacterial infections and sudden hearing loss is well-documented. This despite older coronaviruses (such as SARS and MERS) not appearing to share that same link. So, what is it about COVID-19 – officially SARS-CoV-2 that makes it different?
Down to Delta?
Anecdotes abound regarding earaches suffered as a result of catching the Delta variant. Although anecdotes are not accepted as scientific, what is certain is that the Delta strain affects the upper respiratory symptoms which in turn puts more pressure on the ears and may cause ear infection.
Sudden Hearing Loss When Infected
If we take the aggregate of published case reports, then it would seem that sudden onset hearing loss is rarely a symptom of the first stages of catching coronavirus. Cases do exist, such as a June 2020 report which suggested that several Iranian patients purportedly had both vertigo and hearing loss in one ear. Similarly, another report about sudden sensorineural hearing loss and its relationship with COVID-19 discovered the case of one particular Egyptian who had no other symptoms aside from sudden hearing loss yet then promptly tested positive for the virus.
Hearing Problems as Later Accretion
What is more common are further hearing complications down the line: hearing loss, tinnitus and dizziness have all been noted to occur later in the infection process. A study from February 2021 suggested that an estimated 14.8% of coronavirus patients reported tinnitus, 7.6% hearing loss and 7.2% vertigo. A UK survey corroborated this information, and found that approximately one in ten coronavirus patients self-reported hearing loss or tinnitus eight weeks after initial infection.
Hearing Loss and Treatments
Some medications that people have used to treat their coronavirus, including quinine, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, are well known to have a somewhat higher risk of hearing loss, tinnitus and dizziness as a side effect.
Vaccines, however, are not known to have any effect on hearing according to the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. If anything, hearing loss appears to be lower among the vaccinated.
Should I Be Worried?
Ultimately, far more research needs to be made before we have a definitive answer. Cases appear to crop up sporadically, but, as yet the link between COVID-19 and hearing loss is something of a tentative one.
As always, one should try and err on the side of caution and use the best methods at protecting yourself and your family.
If you have experienced a sudden drop in your hearing after contracting the virus, then get in touch with your doctor immediately.