Coronavirus (COVID-19) can potentially cause hearing impairment, deterioration and tinnitus.
While research into the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 commonly known as COVID-19 has been rather rapid and progressive, we are still yet to determine the pathogenesis and long-term health impacts for people who suffer from this pathogen.
There is growing evidence that indicates that the Novel Coronavirus pathogen is not just a simple lung infection. COVID-19 has actually impacted health outcomes for patients that are seemingly unrelated to traditional respiratory illnesses. Patients who have recovered from the illness have reportedly also suffered from disfunction associated with other organs, such as cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems.
More recently, studies have reported sudden hearing loss amongst patients who have recovered from COVID-19. This has also occurred in young people without any prior hearing issues. Reports on hearing impairment have been mild-to-moderate with secondary symptoms such as ringing in ear (tinnitus), and vertigo.
A recent study from Manchester, UK, by the University of Manchester Audiologists, and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre has reported hearing deterioration in follow-up of patients who have recovered from COVID-19. In their study, 13.2% of the patients reported that their hearing was worse than before, 6.7% reported deterioration in hearing, and another 6.7% reported tinnitus related symptoms.
Professor Kevin Munro, Professor of Audiology at The University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester BRC Hearing Health Theme Lead said: “We already know that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss and coronaviruses can damage the nerves that carry information to and from the brain.”
“It is possible, in theory, that COVID-19 could cause problems with parts of the auditory system including the middle ear or cochlea.”
Although this study was small, and focussed at patients who attended and subsequently recovered from one hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital, this study has broader implications for more research into the health impacts of COVID-19. First report of hearing loss associated with COVID-19 was published on 2nd April 2020 in American Journal of Otolaryngology. In April 2020, another study of COVID-19 patients in Egypt also reported hearing loss. In this study, patients were 20–50 years old and had no prior medical history of hearing problems. The results of the current study showed that Covid-19 infection had deleterious effects on the hair cells in the cochlea. Cochlea is a spiral shaped bone that is responsible for the sense of hearing and conversion of sound waves into neural signals interpretable by the brain. In June 2020, another study conducted in Iran also reported mild to moderate hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. More recently, an autopsy study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery has reported on presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the middle ear and mastoid. This research is addition to the existing body of evidence on the long-term health impacts of COVID-19. We hope that perhaps this will lay a foundation for follow-up and health checks for patients who have recovered from COVID-19.
- Audiological profile of asymptomatic Covid-19 PCR-positive cases. M.W.M. Mustafa. Am J Otolaryngology. 2020 Apr 10 : 102483.
- Could sudden sensorineural hearing loss be the sole manifestation of COVID-19? An investigation into SARS-COV-2 in the etiology of sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Kilic, O et al. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2020 June 11.
- Coronavirus: why we’re investigating the long-term impact on hearing. Munro, K. The Conversation. 2020 June 12. Available from: https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-why-were-investigating-the-long-term-impact-on-hearing-139702
- Does coronavirus affect the audio-vestibular system? A rapid systematic review. Almuffarij, I et al. International Journal of Audiology. Volume 59, 2020 – Issue 7. 2020 June 12.
- Hearing Loss in SARS-CoV-2: What Do We Know? Saniasaiya, J. Ear Nose & Throat Journal. 2020 Aug 5 : 0145561320946902.
- Explosion in hearing aid demands after Covid-19 outbreak curfew. Ertugrul, S and Soylemez, E. European Archives of Otorhinolaryngology. 2020 Aug 1 : 1–2.
- Hearing loss and COVID-19: A note. Sriwijitalai, W and Wiwanitkit, V. American Journal of Otolaryngology. 2020 Apr 2 : 102473.
- Vertigo and hearing loss during the COVID-19 pandemic – is there an association? Karimi-Galougahi, M et al. Official Journal of Italian Society of Otorhinolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. 2020 June 10. Available from: https://www.actaitalica.it/article/view/820
- SARS-CoV-2 Virus Isolated From the Mastoid and Middle Ear Implications for COVID-19 Precautions During Ear Surgery. Frazier, K. et al. JAMA Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery. 2020 July 23. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2768621