Can COVID cause hearing loss and ringing in the ears?

Man holding face in pain - hearing loss and auditory issues associated with COVID-19
Photo via Bernard Odoms/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Evidence suggests that a number of auditory problems, including hearing loss, are “strongly associated” with COVID-19. This is according to a careful review of research conducted by scientists from the University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

Hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo have been associated as potential side effects of COVID-19. Researchers discovered 56 studies linking COVID-19 to a range of “auditory and vestibular problems,” according to SciTechDaily. After pooling data from 24 of the studies, it found that 7.6% of participants suffered from hearing loss, 14.8% suffered from tinnitus, and 7.2% suffered from vertigo.

The findings, which were published in the International Journal of Audiology, were consistent with scattered reports of auditory issues after a COVID infection. Kent Taylor, the man known for founding the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, was among numerous COVID patients who reported tinnitus, aka constant ringing in the ears, following his recovery from the virus. He took his life on March 18 after suffering from post-COVID symptoms for weeks. 

“After a battle with post-COVID-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week,” a statement from his company and family said. Despite fighting the sudden onset of symptoms, “the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable” to Taylor.

There are a number of reported long-term side effects of COVID, including fatigue, joint pain, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough. Thus far, though, auditory issues have been rare. Other viruses, including measles and mumps, are known to sometimes lead to auditory issues. It is not yet known if there is a strong link between COVID-19 and hearing loss, but researchers are adamant that the potential must be examined. 

Researchers say there is an “urgent need” to conduct a carefully controlled trial to determine the “long-term effects of COVID-19 on the auditory system.”

Sources: SciTechDaily, Mayo Clinic, New York Times

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