Can Covid-19 Cause Permanent Hearing Loss & Tinnitus?

Health & Wellness

For most people who have contracted Covid-19, otherwise known as SARS-CoV-2, or the novel coronavirus, symptoms include headache, fever, coughing, muscle pain and difficulty breathing. The majority of people fully recover from the highly-contagious virus. However, a small percentage of coronavirus sufferers experience a slew of baffling symptoms which linger for weeks or even months after being released from the hospital or from the time symptoms first manifested. 

“Covid toes,” stroke, blood clots, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, liver problems, and bloodshot eyes… Add to the list of lingering, mysterious symptoms: hearing loss and tinnitus. This phenomenon has been reported in a study from Britain, which revealed that nearly 20 percent of the 138 subjects reported hearing difficulties eight weeks after being discharged from the hospital. (Out of the 138 patients, 121 were asked questions about their hearing and tinnitus.) Only two of the 138 participants had been admitted to an ICU; an additional 14 spent time in a respiratory ward. 

The study, published in the International Journal of Audiology, also found that over 13% of the patients (16) reported a change in hearing and/or developing tinnitus since being diagnosed with Covid-19. The median age of the 16 patients was 64, and 14 of the 16 patients were male. Out of the 16 patients, four reported pre-existing hearing loss. 

Hearing Loss And Tinnitus Not Unique To The Novel Coronavirus

While the headlines about mysterious Covid symptoms can strike fear and panic, the reality is that many different diseases can cause hearing loss. In the study, the co-authors write, “It is well known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss.” 

The researchers add that auditory neuropathy, a condition known as “brain deafness,” which is characterized by the brain’s ability to comprehend the meaning behind sounds, is also linked with a condition, Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), the latter having a known association with coronavirus.

In addition to hearing loss and tinnitus, other audio-vestibular problems associated with Covid-19 in the study include vertigo, inflammation of the outer ear and undefined ear pain.

Is Coronavirus Really To Blame For Tinnitus?

But just because some Covid-19 patients reported hearing loss or tinnitus doesn’t necessarily mean the disease itself is to blame. The co-authors of the study say that a change in environmental surroundings associated with admission to hospital, “And the use of face masks, may have resulted in recognition of pre-existing hearing loss and tinnitus.”

The co-authors also suggest medications and local or systemic infections, vascular disorders and auto-immune diseases could all be culprits. Adding one more root cause of auditory problems, the researchers write, “[The] anxiety associated with COVID-19 diagnosis and recovery may contribute to some of the symptoms.”
Much is still unknown about the novel coronavirus. How long tinnitus will persist, if a Covid-19 patient develops it, remains to be seen. However, for those who develop tinnitus, regardless of the culprit, be it defective 3M Combat earplugs or years of listening to music at a volume of 11, it may help to take a vitamin B12 supplement and learn how to manage stress.

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