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Hearing loss caused by COVID – 19: Surprising study confirms the connection

Believe it or not, it is not uncommon for viral infections to cause hearing issues.  Rubellameasles, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, West Nile Virus, and cytomegalovirus are some of the common felons that make people Google hearing aid mumbai price.

Speaking of viruses, how can we not address the one that flipped our lives within the course of a year! So, is there a connection between COVID – 19 and hearing loss?

The initial symptom of sudden hearing loss

A June 2020 report revealed patients reported facing hearing loss issues in one ear. Another report mentioned the sudden sensorineural hearing loss as a result f of COVID – 19. Another patient suddenly developed some symptoms of hearing loss and was later tested positive for COVID. This type of sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency and should be addressed immediately. The faster this issue is addressed, the more likely it gets to resume back the lost hearing.

Hearing loss as a later symptom

Those affected by COVID are witnessing hearing loss, tinnitus or dizziness as a later symptom in the infection process. These issues do not arise at the time of initial onset but they start developing days to weeks later.

Potential causes of damage due to COVID

The sound-sensing spiral cavity of the cochlea and the fluid-filled semicircular canals in the inner ear are responsible for maintaining balance. The following damages were noticed in patients who were tested positive for COVID – 19:

  • Immune cells or antibodies caused auto-immune attacks
  • Blood clots deprived the cochlea of oxygen by blocking the supply of blood
  • The inner ear or the nerve carrying sensory signals suffered from direct viral infections
  • Cytokines (immune signalling molecules that cause inflammation) caused excessive damage

Researchers at the Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness (ManCAD) conducted a systematic review of 56 published studies that explored the connection between COVID – 19 and auditory complications. Although sudden and immediate hearing loss with the onset of COVID – 19 is rare at best, auditory complications have emerged as “long COVID – 19”. Long COVID – 19 is a range of effects and symptoms that persist weeks or even months after the initial onset of the infection.

The review made the following noteworthy revelations –

  1. 14.8% of patients experienced tinnitus
  2. 7.6% suffered hearing loss
  3. 7.2% reported rotatory vertigo.

Tinnitus (Ringing in the ear)

Tinnitus is a fairly common auditory disorder affecting close to 15% to 20% of people, especially, elderly people. When one is affected by tinnitus they hear ringing, whooshing, squeals, clicking, hissing, humming, or roaring; even though these sounds are not present in the surrounding environment.

Ringing in the ears must be considered as the first warning that a person is facing exposures to loud noise that can eventually lead to loss of hearing. Reports have confirmed tinnitus to be a common symptom of COVID that lasted long. This symptom might last for weeks or months

Hearing loss (or tinnitus) has been seen as a side effect of the medication used to treat COVID. Medicines containing quinine, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have shown ringing in the ears, vertigo and dizziness as side effects. Some COVID recovered patients reported prolonged illness and peculiar symptoms with no predictable pattern.

Tinnitus can affect you in one or both ears. Among the many plausible causes of tinnitus, the ones that seem most pertinent are –

  • Stress
  • Blood vessel disorder
  • Hormonal fluctuation, especially, among women
  • Restricted blood flow to the neck and head

Hearing Loss

Although there is limited research and “high-quality studies are needed”, hearing loss has been reported by Iranian patients and another small study found 1 (20%) out of its 5 subjects who reported sensorineural hearing loss, tested positive for the COVID – 19 virus in RTPCR test. Owing to the communicable nature of the infection and the raging pandemic, quality studies employing accurate audiometric tests have not been conducted on a large scale. So, the number of patients who have exhibited hearing loss as a symptom of COVID – 19 is still inconclusive. However, hearing loss is still considered to be a rare symptom of COVID – 19.

Vertigo

The sensation of feeling dizzy and falling off balance is known as vertigo. You may also experience a spinning sensation, blackouts, or feel pulled towards one direction. Such sensations often result in sweating, nausea, headache, sweating, and abnormal movement of the eye. The underlying causes of vertigo that are most relevant for the current situation are –

  • Antibiotic
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroids
  • Viral infection.

Patients often confuse dizziness with vertigo. While dizziness mostly causes the feeling of being out of balance or wobbliness; Vertigo makes you feel like the space around you is spinning.

The Potential Causes

The following causes have been implicated by experts for causing auditory complications in COVID – 19 Patients.

  1. The cochlear nerve takes auditory information from the inner ear to the brain. Viral infections can cause damage to this nerve.
  2. There are tiny hair cells in the cochlea that helps us hear. Stress emanating from the infection can restrict blood flow to these cells which can cause damage to these delicate hair cells.
  3. Your immune system can rage a war against your hearing by causing more inflammation.
  4. Suppression of the immune system due to COVID – 19 can cause secondary bacterial and fungal infections in the ear leading to complications. According to researchers, the rate of sudden hearing loss appears to be lower among patients vaccinated for COVID.

If you know someone who is recovering or has just recovered from COVID and tends to face hearing loss related issues, don’t take them lightly. Consult an audiologist at the earliest and look out for the possible remedies that can come to your rescue. Ranging from medical treatment to listening & alerting devices, hearing loss treatments largely depend upon the cause and severity of impairment. If a person is diagnosed with hearing loss that can’t be treated medically, doctors recommend their patients to use a hearing aid and take expert advice from a professional audiologist.

In some cases, assistive listening devices and signalling (or test display) devices are recommended. Such devices convert sound into a visual stimulus or a written text. Alerting devices amplify the sound received by the source. This helps reduce the effects of distance, noise and reverberation. Alerting devices transmit the sound directly to the hearing aids or human ears.

Another way to go about treating hearing loss is Aural Rehabilitation. This procedure commends the use of hearing aids and assistive listening devices. Along with auditory training, these devices maximize the hearing abilities of the patient. Audiologic rehabilitation classes teach effective listening strategies by establishing guidelines for communicating better with people nearby. Those with hearing impairment can also consider therapy as a part of their journey towards treating the impairment.

Conclusion

Be aware of your own body and identify even the slightest discomfort before it gets worse. And, come to us immediately so our seasoned experts can design an effective treatment plan with the best hearing aids.

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