May 2021 Update
Even though the reasons why are still unclear and there is room for more detailed research, recent studies suggest that hearing loss and other auditory issues are linked to Coronavirus. Beyond the reports we can access, there has not been much in regards to researcher publications.
Case reports confirm that hearing loss is still rare as a symptom of COVID onset. Less than 8% of people report a loss, around 15% report tinnitus symptoms and less than 8% report some level of vertigo.
The New Delta Variant & Long COVID
There have been some reports of the Delta variant giving people earache when compared with other COVID mutations. Doctors believe this is because the Delta variant can prompt more upper respiratory symptoms and in turn puts more pressure on the ears. Causing pain and infections.
Around a third of people who are experiencing long COVID have reported earache and the other two thirds - dizziness and vertigo - with no rhyme or reason why someone might experience these symptoms.
Auditory complications associated with COVID
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) we are still facing has already been linked to various long-term effects and health issues. These include neurological disorders and damage to the heart and lungs. Other 'biggies' in terms of complications are symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus, as lasting obstacles weeks after contracting the virus.
Historically, there have been viruses in the past, and even bacterial infections, that have brought on sudden hearing loss - whether that be short or long term. However, older viruses that instigated epidemics like MERS and SARS, did not show to cause hearing loss or hearing healthcare issues.
With that in mind, what do we know about this coronavirus that has hit us globally, in regards to hearing loss? Here I discuss what we have found out within our network of audiologists, patients and the audiology industry.
Hearing Loss and COVID - The links unravel
Before I start, I would like to make it clear that recent studies have shown that sudden hearing loss is still quite rare after contracting the coronavirus. However, there have been cases of hearing loss in one ear and consistent symptoms of vertigo. It has also been known that sudden hearing loss has been the only symptom of the virus in some cases.
What we have discovered over the last few months is that hearing loss or tinnitus is a complication of COVID-19. In short, it is not often linked to the initial onset of virus symptoms, but rather something that develops later on. People who have been very ill with the virus have been reported to experience sudden hearing loss in one ear and then went on to regain their hearing after being treated with steroids. In some cases, partially.
In such examples as above, it has been hard to prove that the coronavirus is the direct link, just that it is more than likely to be - given that they were not receiving any treatment known to bring on hearing loss as a side effect. Medication like this is called ototoxicity.
What I have read recently and found quite interesting is that a UK study showed 1 out of 10 virus sufferers reported hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing of the ears) 6-8 weeks after they contracted the virus. However, it is important to understand that there is a possibility it isn't directly related.
As I stated earlier, the medications that have hearing loss as a side effect are called ototoxicity and some medication used to treat COVID-19 are labelled high-risks. Not just a high risk of developing hearing loss, but also dizziness, vertigo and tinnitus. In experience, medication such as quinine, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are known to have these after-effects without patients having the virus. Therefore, misdiagnosis is possible.
Hearing Loss and Coronavirus - In Summary
"At the end of the day, I can only relay what I know so far and what information is accessible to our industry. More research is needed to distinguish the long-term auditory effects of COVID-19. I predict as we continue to ride the wave of this virus, when the vaccination is readily accessible and the virus wears - research will then evolve and the focus will shift to studying the long-term complications"
Paul Harrison - Audiology Expert & Founder of Hearing Aid UK
The future will unravel more information and will open doors to a bigger scope of knowledge. The knowledge will empower future treatment, rehabilitation and help us find better ways of adapting globally and as an industry. In the hope that we will be more ready for possible epidemics of the future.
Important Note About Hearing Loss and COVID
Even though we endeavour to update this article as and when new information is published regarding hearing loss and COVID - sudden hearing loss requires you to act quickly. Like with all medical emergencies - the faster you receive professional help the more effective your treatment will be and the better chance you can regain your hearing.
Call us for free support on 0800 567 7621 for any hearing healthcare queries and needs you may have or to discuss this article further.
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