With the spread of COVID-19, we regularly learn new things about the long-term harm it can do to those infected.
Now word is coming that hearing impairment and other hearing problems may be linked to the disease caused by the coronavirus also known as SARS-CoV-2.
Researchers at the University of Manchester and Manchester NIHR Biomedical Research Center analyzed data from 24 studies and estimated that the prevalence of hearing disorders associated with COVID-19 cases is:
- Hearing loss: 7.6%
- Tinnitus (a symptom often described as ringing in the ears): 14.8%
- Vertigo (a form of dizziness that makes you feel as though you or the room is spinning): 7.2%
Before you get too concerned, know that the researchers considered the quality of these studies only “fair.” The data comes from questionnaires and self-reported medical records, which makes the information less reliable than what scientists might find on actual hearing tests.
However, it would be a mistake to simply ignore the results. In a press release, Kevin Munro – Professor of Audiology at the University of Manchester and Leader of Hearing Health at Manchester BRC – said:
It is also known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss; Little is understood about the acoustic effects of SARS-CoV-2. Although this review provides further evidence of an association, the studies we looked at were of mixed quality, so more work is needed.”
Monroe and other researchers are in the midst of a year-long study in the UK to learn more about the possible link between COVID-19 and hearing disorders. Monroe says he has received many emails from those with COVID-19 who later report tinnitus or changes in their hearing.
However, Munro notes that such issues can stem from other factors.
Recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found evidence of coronavirus in the middle ear during autopsies of some patients who contracted COVID-19.
The study did not seek to determine the effects, if any, resulting from the presence of the virus in the middle ear. But co-author Dr. Matthew Stewart, associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins University, told AARP:
“If there is an active viral infection in that part of the body, you may develop the full range of symptoms associated with other types of viral infections in that area.”
These symptoms include inflammation that can impair hearing or cause tinnitus, dizziness or imbalance.
However, other research supports Monroe’s reluctance to jump to conclusions.
For example, a 2020 study outside of Israel — published in a peer-reviewed American medical journal, Otology & Neurotology — found no evidence that COVID-19 harms the auditory system.
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