Since the pandemic started some research Found a link to coronavirus infection sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SSHL: Rapid, unexplained hearing loss in one or both ears. It can occur all at once or over several days and is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness and ringing in the ears.
People with SSHL tend to feel that one ear is blocked, congested, or blocked. This happens because something, in this case a coronavirus, (directly or indirectly) damages the cochlear nerve, the sensory nerve that carries auditory information from the inner ear to the brain.
of First case linking COVID to hearing loss It was reported in April 2020, three months after the coronavirus was officially detected in the United States.
Hearing loss is just one of many lingering conditions that debilitating people with hearing loss. long covid weeks, months or even years after infection. Memory loss, sensitivity to light, loss of smell and taste, and brain fog are other common neurological symptoms that persist among people with post-COVID conditions.
Like other lengthy COVID symptoms, hearing loss has have a significant impact on quality of life, relationships, safety, sleep, concentration, energy levels, and more. Hearing loss is also strongly associated with cognitive decline over time, leading to poorer memory and thinking skills.
There’s no conclusive evidence that COVID is robbing people of their hearing, but it’s not an irrational relationship based on what researchers know about the effects of other viruses on the auditory system. The Pacific Neuroscience Institute treats adults and children with conditions of the inner ear and skull.
“I am amazed by the gravity of this virus in that it can integrate into all these different body systems,” said Voelker. Including but not limited to hepatitis, HIV, rubella, influenza, mumps, herpes, measles, etc.
“There’s no way to prove it’s COVID, but the more people came in after lockdown, the sub-specialist community started talking among us,” Volker said. Not everyone with COVID will have hearing loss, but this relationship cannot be ignored.”
But three years later, those dealing with post-COVID hearing loss continue to face a lack of clear answers and treatment options. doctor dismissing concerns.
After examining Rye’s ears and nose, doctors said there was nothing they could do to deal with tinnitus or hearing loss, dismissing the symptoms as “older”. was recommended to do so. Fortunately, she was able to find a doctor who listened to her and helped her schedule a hearing test.
Living in “a very red part of California” and being transgender doesn’t help. “When you go to the doctor, there are so many things that go against you, so even in the medical field, many people are downplaying the impact of COVID on him,” he said, also dealing with a sudden loss of balance. He said Mr. Rye. Dizziness. Palpitations. Decreased vision. “I don’t want to be completely deaf or completely deaf, I’m just trying to control what’s going on in my body.”
Why can COVID cause hearing loss?
Although unconfirmed, the most compelling theory to explain COVID-19 hearing loss is that the virus directly infects the inner ear, which is important for hearing and balance.
A 2021 study published in the Nature journal Communications Medicine showed that hair cells in the inner ear have the ability to: express proteins necessary for coronavirus to infect.
Researchers speculate that the virus may enter the ear through the Eustachian tube, which connects the back of the throat to the middle ear. The virus can also travel from the nasal cavity through openings around the olfactory nerves and enter the brain spaces. From there, the nerves leading to the inner ear can be infected.
Another theory is that the coronavirus triggers an inflammatory cascade that damages hair cells in the inner ear. As there is increasing evidence that , Voeker said, “the delicate blood vessels that lead to the inner ear” can be disrupted and cause hearing loss.
But according to Voelker, the biggest misconception is that COVID-related hearing loss is due to congestion, which Voelker says he “hates that explanation.”
BuzzFeed News spoke with Lisa Mecham, one of Voelker’s patients. Her first doctor, who attributed her hearing loss to blood congestion, cleaned her ears in case she had a buildup of earwax and said, “It will go away in time.” I was.
It wasn’t. About a week later, his 51-year-old Mecham still had hearing loss in both of his ears, but his left was much worse. She also had tinnitus, or high-pitched ringing, that sounded like the truck was revving its engine.
“It was kind of what I like. It doesn’t feel crowdedIt’s like a muffling, like someone stuck a cotton ball in your ear. wow this is happening to me, California-based writer Mecham told BuzzFeed News. “I feel like I’m gaslighting myself. Is this really what I’m thinking or is it just a crowd?”
Of course, congestion can affect hearing – anyone who has had a bad cold can attest to this. , occurs because it blocks the sound waves from flowing freely. It is temporary and usually resolves on its own or with the help of a doctor.
However, this mechanism is likely different from that of actual damage to sensory nerves in the ear and is occurring in post-COVID hearing loss.
Some early studies suggest that COVID vaccination can cause hearing loss In some people, though, researchers were able to show Follow-up survey It wasn’t. (In fact, vaccination may help prevent hearing loss by reducing the risk of infection.)
meanwhile, more 600 drugs are known to be ototoxicPain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil, certain antibiotics, diuretics to treat high blood pressure, some chemotherapy drugs, hormone therapy to treat menopause, malaria and lupus drugs such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine is used. As an early COVID treatment for the pandemic.
Remdesivir is an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of COVID in children and adults. Associated with ototoxicityHowever, the role of this or other drugs in causing hearing loss in relation to COVID has not been investigated.
The good news is that most of the ototoxic effects of these drugs are temporary and resolve when their use is discontinued.
How common is hearing loss post-COVID?
According to Volker, hearing loss is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in the United States, and many people said they didn’t realize their hearing had deteriorated dramatically years later. It’s a symptom of COVID.
Also, the limited studies on this topic are often based on small sample sizes, mostly COVID patients who went to hospital, and a large proportion of those who did not need or could not go to hospital. Excluding it doesn’t help either.
What is clear at this point in the pandemic is that post-COVID hearing loss primarily affects adults. No published studies or case reports have documented cases in children, but that doesn’t mean children don’t experience this problem.
In one study of 28 COVID hospitalized patients in India who reported hearing problems, 24 of them had had sensorineural hearing loss The other four had conductive hearing loss. This is when fluid, tissue, or bone growth blocks or reduces incoming sound. The majority of patients lost hearing in one ear.
Of the 225 COVID patients who developed loss of smell and taste in Denmark, Over 10% report hearing loss In an observational study published in 2022, 16% reported tinnitus.In a city in Turkey, researchers found More people experience hearing loss ENT clinic visits in the first year of the pandemic compared to the same period in the previous year; 60% of patients had active or recent COVID symptoms.
So while there is compelling evidence of a link between COVID and hearing loss, the research is inconclusive. In a review of 26 global case reports and studies on COVID and hearing loss (involving only 23 patients in total), the study findings “was inconsistent and even contradictory“
In addition to tinnitus, vertigo, facial palsy and dysphonia (difficulty speaking), hearing loss is a well-known consequence of COVID, said Dr. Robert Sataroff, professor and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at Drexel University School of Medicine. Said—possibly due to nerve damage in the ear. But he said there’s no evidence that hearing loss is more common with prolonged COVID.
“The fact that hearing loss or tinnitus occurred during COVID infection does not necessarily mean that they were caused by COVID infection,” Satarov said in an email. We often make the mistake of assuming that we establish .
Still, the correlation between COVID infection and the timing of hearing loss onset is “certainly consistent,” Voelker said.
Early treatment is important for hearing loss after COVID-19
When it comes to SSHL, early treatment is key. “No matter what we do, even if people come quickly, we may not be able to get hearing back, but the sooner we can get steroid therapy in place, the more likely we are to be able to save it.” increase.
No matter how the ear is damaged, the worst cases occur early in the infection. By targeting its destruction as soon as possible, “all downstream effects can be calmed down,” Volker said.
But that is easier said than done.Many people may notice hearing loss after treatments such as steroids may be effective. become apparent months after infection, which may have already suffered irreparable damage at that point. (One of Voelker’s older hearing-impaired patients lost her hearing in both ears due to COVID, which is rare and required a cochlear implant.)
Mecham was fortunate enough to be placed under Voelker’s care just in time to qualify for steroid treatment. Voelker injected steroids directly into his ear because the initial treatment option for patients with SSHL, an oral steroid regimen, was ineffective.
“It’s a very strange feeling. It made me very dizzy and I almost threw up for the first few seconds,” says Mecham. “It’s not fun, but I wish I had done it sooner.” Within four days, his Mecham noticed that his hearing had improved. But it was after her second shot that brought her the most relief and improvement.
Mecham’s hearing in his left ear is about 80% better than before and he still suffers from tinnitus every day. Although her hearing may never fully recover, she audio cardioShe uses it daily to soothe her tinnitus. This app delivers deafening sounds to your ears to stimulate cell growth and stop tinnitus.
Studies show that most people with hearing loss after COVID experience only partial recovery, and many experience no improvement. But Voelker says there are still some options people can pursue to regain some of their hearing. hearing aidis the recommended treatment after all other options have been exhausted.
However, no matter how long you’ve been battling COVID, you should still get a hearing test, Voelker said.
“We are still learning a lot about COVID and its impact,” Voelker said. “It’s never too late to get your hearing tested and evaluated, and we’ll find out how we can help you.”