Another Effect of COVID: Lasting Hearing Problems?Audiology by Accent
Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 has been linked to several long-term problems, including lung, heart, and neurological damage. Emerging research demonstrates that COVID-19 may also be associated with tinnitus and hearing loss.
Other types of bacterial and viral infections are known to cause hearing loss. However, other types of coronavirus, including MERS and SARS, have not been linked to hearing problems. SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, appears to work differently. Recent research demonstrates that it may be linked to hearing loss and tinnitus as a long-term complication.
Sudden hearing loss and COVID-19
While sudden hearing loss occurs with some types of infections, it is not a normal symptom of the onset of COVID-19. In rare cases, some patients in Iran and Egypt have suffered vertigo and sudden hearing loss during the onset of symptoms. However, these cases have been exceedingly rare, and the vast majority of COVID-19 infections do not include sudden hearing loss among the symptoms of the disease’s onset.
Hearing loss as a complication of COVID-19
While sudden hearing loss is a rare symptom of COVID-19, the development of tinnitus or hearing loss may be a complication people suffer because of coronavirus disease. As a complication, it means that the hearing issues are not a part of the initial onset of the disease but instead develop later.
In October 2020. a case study in the journal BMJ Case Reports examined a 45-year-old man who developed hearing loss and tinnitus in one ear after developing critical illness from COVID-19. After steroids were administered, his hearing was partially restored. The authors believed that COVID-19 was responsible for the man’s hearing loss since he was not administered any medications with side effects of hearing loss or ototoxicity.
Some autopsy reports have also revealed viral infection of the middle bones of the ear. In one case, a man developed profound hearing loss after he suffered a bout of COVID-19 pneumonia.
In a survey conducted in the UK, almost 10% of people who had developed COVID-19 reported suffering tinnitus or hearing loss eight weeks later. While the authors noted that the result was surprising, they also stated that the hearing issues could have been unrelated or indirectly related to medication side effects or other causes. The authors concluded that further research is necessary to determine the link between coronavirus disease and the development of hearing loss or tinnitus.
Is the auditory system damaged by COVID-19?
A small study conducted in Israel looked at 16 patients, including eight who had COVID-19 and eight who were not infected. No differences were found between the groups in their signs of damage to the auditory nerve. The tests that were used included auditory brainstem response tests and otoacoustic emissions tests. However, this study should be treated with caution since the sample size was very small. A much larger study is planned by the researchers to further investigate this potential issue.
Tinnitus or hearing loss as a complication may also occur because of medications that might be used to treat COVID-19. Some of the medications that have been used to treat coronavirus disease can cause hearing loss, including hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and quinine.
Get help from an experienced audiologist in Gainesville
The impact of COVID-19 on hearing is not fully understood. More research is necessary before we will understand how balance and hearing might be affected by the novel coronavirus. If you have suffered hearing loss or tinnitus after recovering from COVID-19, you should talk to a professional at Audiology by Accent in Gainesville, Florida. Call us today to schedule an appointment at 352.271.5373.