The novel COVID-19 outbreak changed the field of healthcare forever. Now, researchers are investigating whether the disease has long-term effects even after a patient recovers.
One interesting field of study is COVID-19’s potential link to hearing loss. For obvious reasons, this topic has not been a priority, but now some small studies are coming out with interesting findings.
The thing to remember is that research on this is still very new. Certainly, other viruses have been linked to hearing loss before, such as measles, mumps and meningitis. So the potential for COVID-19 to impact hearing is there, but so far no definitive link has been made.
Here’s what we know right now about hearing loss and COVID-19:
1. Hearing loss may be a rare, but possible effect of COVID-19 infection. A recent case study in the journal BMJ Case Reports covered the case of a 45 year old patient who suffered from sudden hearing loss in one ear and tinnitus after a serious case of COVID-19.
The authors’ conclusion states, “We suggest that patients are asked about hearing loss in the ITU environments when applicable, and any patient reporting acute hearing loss should be referred to otolaryngology on an emergency basis.”
2. A separate study from England used a survey of 138 recovered COVID-19 patients, and found that Sixteen (13.2%) patients (median age 64) reported a change in hearing and/or tinnitus since being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The results state:
There was self-reported tinnitus in eight cases, with three reporting a pre-existing hearing loss. There were no reports of recent changes in both hearing and tinnitus in the same individual. One individual with hearing loss also reported vertigo, which may have been vestibular in origin. One patient reported unilateral tinnitus (left) that was associated with a sensation of aural pressure. Another patient reported that the tinnitus had now resolved.
As you can see, while reports are trickling in, there’s just not enough data available to conclude that COVID-19 illness leads to hearing loss. However, it’s something to watch out for, especially in elderly patients and those with pre-existing hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
If you or someone you know has been ill with COVID-19 and is now suffering from hearing loss or other otologic symptoms, contact us right away so we can schedule a hearing test.