Since near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve heard about loss of smell and taste, as well as other COVID symptoms. We’ve seen the stories where even months after a mild case, these senses haven’t returned. But what about your hearing and COVID-19?
It appears some people are experiencing a loss of hearing as another unusual COVID-19 symptom. Hearing is another important sense that helps you communicate, work, and enjoy life. It remains to be seen how permanent COVID-19-related hearing loss might be. I’d like to share with you what we know so far.
What We Know About Your Hearing and COVID-19 Symptoms
Audiologists are seeing an increase in the number of people with sensorineural hearing loss around the world. One of the causes of sensorineural hearing loss is damage to tiny hair-like receptors in the inner ear. When these receptors are damaged, they eventually die.
Unlike most cells in your body, these cells don’t regenerate. You have thousands of these little cells. But the more that die, the worse the hearing becomes. This is the kind of hearing loss people associate with aging or exposure to loud noises.
Before the pandemic, the number of people initially diagnosed with hearing loss in a year is between 5-160 people out of 100,000. By the age of 65, about 25% of people have this kind of hearing loss, although it begins much earlier.
It may be a little while before we know exactly how much this has increased, but hearing professionals are seeing a rise. The International Journal of Audiology reported in summer 2020 that around 13% of COVID-19 patients have developed hearing loss or tinnitus (ear ringing) that persisted after they recovered.
How Can Hearing and COVID-19 Be Related?
Inflammation is a major symptom of COVID-19. This inflammation affects different organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain. Inflammation in the lungs and heart can cut off a healthy oxygen supply to the ears. That lack of oxygen can cause those little hair cells in the ears to die.
Inflammation and swelling, in general, can restrict blood flow. If you have lots of inflammatory diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis, you may have an increased risk of developing hearing loss even if you’re able to avoid catching COVID-19.
Does Hearing Come Back After COVID-19?
Temporary swelling in the ears from COVID-19 can cause conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is the result of a blockage, such as fluid build-up. It can go away once that swelling goes down. However, that swelling can cause more permanent hearing loss, the sensorineural hearing loss we discussed. This is what we see from COVID-19, and it is permanent.
So, have you recently recovered from COVID-19 or think you might have had it? Are you noticing that your hearing isn’t as good as it was before? Please, wear your mask and see me for a hearing test.