Now that we have been dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now, you have probably learned that symptoms of COVID can vary from person to person. Some people experience difficulty breathing, while others only suffer from a loss of taste or smell. Some people experience nausea or vomiting, while others have a fever and chills.
You may also know that certain viruses can lead to hearing difficulties, including measles, mumps, and meningitis. But what about the coronavirus? Could one of the varying symptoms of COVID-19 be an effect on your hearing? A new study found that yes, there is a link between COVID-19 and symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo.
Tinnitus is the most common hearing symptom reported by those suffering from COVID-19. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a fairly common condition on its own, with nearly 15 percent of the population (approximately 50 million Americans) experiencing some form of tinnitus. Most people who experience tinnitus also have hearing loss, which suggests a close link between the two conditions. Researchers suspect that tinnitus is one of the first signs that the hearing system has been damaged by factors like excessive noise or ototoxic drugs.
Tinnitus has been reported to be a common symptom of what is referred to as “long COVID,” which is where symptoms persist weeks or even months after the infection is gone. The exact connection between tinnitus and COVID-19 is unclear. It may be that the virus affects the auditory system, or tinnitus may be caused by stress from the pandemic.
While tinnitus is most frequently reported by those suffering from long COVID, hearing difficulties have been reported by patients of a wide age range who experienced the illness in varying degrees of severity. Hearing loss has been reported among those with mild cases that were managed as home, as well as among severe cases that required hospitalization. There have also been several reports of sudden hearing loss in one ear, accompanied by tinnitus, from patients with COVID-19.
Research has found that viruses can cause sudden hearing loss, so SARS-CoV-2 may be responsible for the cases of sudden hearing loss reported in COVID patients. However, because of the high number of COVID patients worldwide, it is difficult for researchers to determine whether the rate of sudden hearing loss is higher than normal.
Many COVID patients also report dizziness as a symptom of the disease. Dizziness may be difficult to differentiate from rotatory vertigo, which is caused by damage to the balance system in the inner ear. The best estimate from current surveys and reports is that rotatory vertigo occurs in approximately 7 percent of COVID cases.
From these reports, it is clear that COVID-19 is linked to hearing difficulties, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. Further research is needed to more fully establish the connection and the true cause of these symptoms. To learn more about how COVID and hearing problems are linked, we invite you to contact our hearing clinic today. We are eager to assist you.