Coronavirus and hearing loss

Recent research has found that people who have battled coronavirus may be left with a hearing loss. In fact, an analysis has found that in some cases, hearing loss could be one of the only symptoms of the virus.

A study looked at COVID-19 patients from 20-50 years of age. None of the participants in the study had a history of hearing loss. What they found was that all subjects had difficulty with high-frequency pure-tone thresholds, and compromised transient evoked otoacoustic emissions in the aftermath of the virus. Otoacoustic emissions or OAEs examine how the inner ear (cochlea) responds to sound.

In another study examining the virus, participants experienced vertigo and ringing in the ears. All participants also had a hearing loss that was usually more prominent on one side after recovery.

The studies that have looked at the connection between COVID-19 and hearing loss are small and limited. However, we are still discovering so much about this virus on an ongoing basis, and it seems clear that this will continue for a while.

Viruses

We do not know enough about COVID-19 at this point. We do know that other viruses can have an effect on hearing. Viruses that are known to contribute to ear-related problems include measles, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the herpes simplex virus. Viruses also have a reputation for being unpredictable.

What else could cause hearing loss?

Could treatments for COVID-19 be the source of hearing loss? Surprisingly, medications that are used to treat the severe respiratory symptoms that are a hallmark of COVID-19 could also be the culprit. Medications can be ototoxic, which means they can impact hearing health.

Ototoxicity means toxic to or may damage the ear. The list of drugs that are potentially ototoxic includes chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, remdesivir, favipiravir, and lopinavir.

– Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes Contributor

Coronavirus and mental health

People dealing with undiagnosed hearing loss are typically already dealing with mental health issues. The anxiety related to trying to hear in a crowded room, and the stress of possibly being embarrassed by misinterpreting what is said, is already challenging enough. Add the additional apprehension we all feel during the COVID-19 pandemic and anxiety levels can skyrocket.

There are also other difficulties including ongoing fatigue that is a direct result of trying to lip read. This is why it’s essential to pay particular attention to family members and friends who are dealing with hearing loss issues, especially those who are undiagnosed or in denial.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptoms

We are learning more and more about this virus every day and the list of symptoms appears to be growing. We do know that symptoms include: shortness of breath, a temperature equal to or over 38˚C, chills, new or worsening cough, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of smell or taste, and headache. Of course, any changes to your hearing warrants a visit to your Doctor of Audiology as well. While the connection between hearing loss and coronavirus needs more research, we are discovering that there may also be an association.

Coronavirus and hearing loss

Even when you have been fortunate enough to avoid the virus, you may find other challenges if you currently have a hearing loss. Wearing masks are important to keep the virus in check as much as possible. However, if you have a hearing loss, masks can be a major communication barrier. Many people with hearing loss depend on lip-reading to communicate so wearing a mask has created an obstacle to their ability to socialize. Adding more difficulty is the muffling of voices when people speak through the mask barrier. One of the best ways to get over this hurdle is to get a mask with a window so that lip reading can continue.

Signs of depression

Depression and anxiety have been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. General instability in many areas of life brought on by the coronavirus is responsible for this ongoing trend. It is so important to monitor loved ones in light of the challenges brought on by the coronavirus. The signs of depression include fatigue, difficulty with decision-making, a sense of hopelessness, changes in sleeping patterns, restlessness, irritability, overeating or eating less, digestive issues, persistent anxiety, feeling numb, sadness, memory problems, and suicidal thoughts.

Coronavirus has forced all of us to adapt to a very different reality which we never would have imagined a year ago. We are finding out new information on a regular basis. This virus can impact lives not only during the illness but long after recovery. Knowledge is power and crucial to coming through this as intact as possible. Please wear a mask and contact your healthcare provider if you suspect that you or someone you love may have the virus.

You may also be interested in…

Hearing loss and mental health

Hearing loss and the brain

Sources: Government Canada, Public Health, WebMD, Mayo Clinic