Did you know COVID-19 could affect your hearing even if you are asymptomatic?

Image result for hearing loss imageAs more evidence continues to emerge about the impact of Covid-19 on the human body, some scientific publications have suggested that the virus may affect your ear and hearing, even if you are otherwise asymptomatic.

A study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology and conducted by M.W.M.Mustafa of the Qena Faculty of Medicine, South Valley University in Egypt showed that 20 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 performed significantly worse than normal on some parts of a hearing test.  The study participants were between 20 and 50 years of age and had no history of hearing loss.  They also did not have any other known symptoms associated with Covid-19.  Nevertheless, they showed a measurable difference in specific areas of the hearing tests, including the high frequency pure-tone thresholds and the transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) amplitudes.

There was also a letter published in Acta Otorhinolaryngologica Italica. This letter was more of a case series than a formal study. It described six patients, ranging from 22 to 40 years of age, who had more typical Covid-19 symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath as well as seemingly ear-related symptoms. Two had vertigo, with one case being very mild. Four had ringing in the ears. All six had some type of hearing loss, more on one side.

Image result for medications imageThere is also the possibility that medications being used to treat the virus may be ototoxic, which means toxic to or damaging to the ear.  A letter published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology was written to warn health professionals that a number of medications being tried to treat the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can have ototoxicity. The list of drugs that are potentially ototoxic includes chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, remdesivir, favipiravir and lopinavir.

It wouldn’t be too surprising if the virus were to somehow affect ear function. Other viruses such as the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the herpes zoster virus (HZV), the cytomegalovirus, the measles virus, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can affect the ear and cause ear-related symptoms.

Cases have also shown that the virus may spread well beyond the respiratory tract into the nervous system. For example, in a research letter published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, a team from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Kaitlyn M. Frazier, MD, Jody E. Hooper, MD, Heba H. Mostafa, MBBCh, PhD, D(ABMM), and C. Matthew Stewart, MD, PhD) described how they had detected SARS-CoV2 in the middle ear or mastoid (which is adjacent to the middle ear) of three patients.

See the source imageThe evidence to date simply suggests that the Covid-19 coronavirus can affect your ears and potentially leave you with some hearing loss. However, more studies would be necessary to form firmer conclusions but any possibility of hearing loss associated with the coronavirus should be taken seriously because hearing loss is already of significant problem around the world.

In the U.S., “approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 has difficulty hearing,” according to the National Institute of Aging (NIA). But hearing loss is not just an issue for older adults. The Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA) states that one in five teens experience some degree of hearing loss.

Image result for hearing loss imageIf the Covid-19 coronavirus could indeed affect your hearing, it’s more important than ever to get your hearing checked even if you are not showing any other symptoms of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Contact us today if you’d like to make an appointment for a comprehensive ear evaluation.  Our offices are open and we have instituted a formal protocol to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff in all three of of our locations: Newport Beach, Seal Beach and Irvine.

Starting May 1st, we will be starting to see patients in our offices and implementing a specific safety protocol. Please click here for Patient Instructions for in-office visits.