Researchers are currently examining the damaging impact of COVID-19 virus on the hearing organs in the inner ear. Throughout 2020 COVID-19 had us hiding out at home, washing our hands, wiping down surfaces and masking up. Quite a bit wasn’t known for some time. We knew about flu-like symptoms and disturbances in smell and taste, but not enough about the full spectrum of effects. Now, evidence is emerging about symptoms of COVID beyond those that were initially reported. In a review by the Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness (ManCAD) in 2020, tinnitus, hearing loss and balance disorders were present in 56 separate studies on COVID. The evidence remains tentative at this stage as it is only based on self-reports of problems.
There are multiple reports of audio-vestibular symptoms associated with COVID-19. However, there is a dearth of high-quality studies comparing COVID-19 cases and controls.Munro, professor of audiology at ManCAD
Senior Author Kevin Munro is professor of audiology at ManCAD. She states that there is a need for a carefully designed study to yield high quality data about the apparent association of hearing disorders like hearing loss and tinnitus with COVID-19. Professor Munro is currently leading a year-long study in the UK to understand the pervasive effects of COVID-19.
Why does COVID apparently cause hearing and balance problems and tinnitus?
We have learned that the damage caused by COVID-19 can go beyond respiratory problems to immune reactions. It causes inflammation and circulatory complications that may damage wide ranging sensory systems in the body. These problems may result from direct viral infections of the ear and connecting nerve pathways, excessive cytokine production causing inflammation, or blood clots in pathways supporting delicate structures of the inner ear. As we learn more about the nature and extent of the association of these symptoms with the disease, a better understanding of the root causes of the symptoms will emerge. This in turn will bring possible treatments into practice.
Have you had COVID-19? Think you may have trouble hearing or a change in tinnitus?
Proactively schedule a hearing check. This will establish an objective level to inform your physician and you about your hearing. Not to mention, it will create a baseline for comparison in the future if necessary.
Ibrahim Almufarrij & Kevin J. Munro (2021): One year on: an updated systematic review of SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 and audio-vestibular symptoms, International Journal of Audiology, DOI: 10.1080/14992027.2021.1896793