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Ask Anna: Does COVID-19 cause hearing loss?

Does Covid-19 cause hearing loss?

COVID-19, or Coronavirus, affects people in numerous ways. This newly identified virus that affects the respiratory system seems to come with many side effects, some that are very serious and some that last longer than others. Now, new reports are suggesting hearing loss may be one side effect of COVID-19.

The reality is that right now we really do not know enough about this virus to be 99.9 percent certain that there is a link or correlation between COVID-19 and sensorineural hearing loss. We also don’t know whether this effect will be temporary or permanent. However, if you or a loved one has contracted COVID-19, it’s important to look out for warning signs of hearing loss.

Does COVID-19 cause hearing loss?

One recently published article in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, titled “Audiological profile of asymptomatic COVID-19 PCR-positive cases,” has concluded that COVID-19 could have an effect on inner ear function but state that more research is needed.

Another study, by in the International Journal of Audiology, surveyed 120 patients in the U.K who had been hospitalized for COVID-19.

“When the patients were asked if they had any changes in their hearing, 13% said it was worse,” according to HeathDay News. “Eight patients said their hearing had deteriorated and eight said they had tinnitus (ringing in the ears).”

The Mayo Clinic has also reported that the virus could trigger inflammation of the meninges, which can spread to the cochlea and lead to hearing loss.

“Virus-triggered, immune-mediated inflammation seems likely, considering that severe cases of COVID-19 have been associated with a dysregulation of the immune system,” the report concludes.

Read more: Coping with hearing loss during the Coronavirus outbreak

Warning signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss can either come on suddenly or worsen over time.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or sudden deafness, often involves a rapid loss of hearing all at once or within 72 hours.  During this time, sounds can gradually become muffled or faint, often in only one ear. Treatment for recovery includes steroid therapy. If treated immediately, about 50 percent of people recover with prompt treatment, according to HealthLine.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, can be another warning sign that your hearing health is damaged. In most cases, only the person who has tinnitus is the only one who can hear the noise. These so-called “phantom noises” can vary in pitch and can be heard in one or both ears. People with tinnitus might hear a variety of sounds, including humming, roaring, or even music. Some people may even hear multiple sounds.

Other warning signs of hearing loss include:

  • Children and women’s voices are hard to understand
  • You ask others to repeat themselves
  • You are turning up the volume on your electronics
  • Your ears may feel clogged or filled

How to address hearing loss and COVID-19

So what can we do if someone has tested positive for COVID-19, and feels a lingering effect of hearing loss?

The best advice is if you know or suspect you have had COVID-19 and your hearing does not seem to be as it was before is to get a hearing assessment.

This can be organized in a number of ways:

  1. A screening test. Hearing screening tests are widely available online. You can do an initial test at home to see if you should arrange for a more formal assessment. You can take this free, 3-minute hearing test online.
  2. A remote assessment. Remote hearing assessments have become much more popular now as clinics have not been able to open their doors. It is also an option if you are nervous about having to visit a clinic or have to shelter at home. These remote assessments are thorough and accurate and conducted with the hearing care professional involved.
  3. An “In clinic” assessment. This is the standard face to face model of care where you will visit the Hearing Care professional in their practice for a hearing assessment. Clinics that are open during this time have put in place protective measures in for hearing assessments.

If you think COVID-19 has resulted in you or a loved one having hearing loss, the most important thing to know is that it is possible for you to manage your hearing and to get help and support from a hearing care professional.

To locate an hearing care professional near you, you can use this online tool.

Author Details
Anna is currently the Senior Audiology Manager at Phonak. She has worked in the field of audiology and hearing aids for 25 years, and is passionate about all things audiology.