COVID-19 and hearing loss: What do we know?

COVID-19 has been linked to many long term medical conditions including chronic fatigue, heart damage, lung damage and psychological disorders. One emerging area of research is whether COVID-19 can cause hearing loss and/or tinnitus (ringing sound in the ears). It is well established that viruses including mumps, measles, meningitis and cytomegalovirus can result in hearing loss.   In addition, auditory neuropathy has been linked with Guillain-Barre syndrome which has a known association with coronavirus.   Auditory neuropathy is a hearing disorder caused by disruption of nerve impulses travelling from the inner ear to the brain.

COVID-19 does not appear to cause a sudden hearing loss but patients may develop hearing loss and tinnitus as a complication of the virus.   According to a recent study a significant number of patients reported a deterioration in their hearing or the onset of tinnitus when questioned 8 weeks after their discharge from hospital for COVID 19 1.

The study involved 138 adults, diagnosed with COVID 19, who had been admitted to Wythenshawe Hospital in England due to the severity of their symptoms. Approximately 15% of the patients self-reported a change in hearing or tinnitus since being diagnosed with COVID-19.   Eight people reported that their hearing had deteriorated and a further eight people reported tinnitus.   The median age of the 16 individuals was 64 years and the majority (88%) were male.

The authors noted that some caution is required in interpreting the data.   Factors other than COVID-19 may impact on hearing including the use of face masks making communication more difficulty, change in environment associated with being admitted to hospital, anxiety and medication used to treat the virus.

The results highlight the need for high quality studies to investigate the potential long term impact of COVID-19 on hearing and/or tinnitus. We will keep you updated through our Website on further research findings.

1Kevin J. Munro, Kai Uus, Ibrahim Almufarrij, Nazia Chaudhuri & Veronica Yioe (2020): Persistent self-reported changes in hearing and tinnitus in post-hospitalisation COVID-19 cases, International Journal of Audiology.