Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen countless headlines about how COVID-19 impacts individuals differently. From asymptomatic patients, to those who may suffer from long-term effects like the permanent loss of the sense of smell. Early on, one of those speculations had been about whether the COVID-19 virus has any effect on hearing loss, and it was largely debated. Good news: Studies show that COVID-19 has no permanent impact on hearing loss.
Researchers in Israel decided to investigate this question back during the first wave of the pandemic, when the number of patients infected with the virus was relatively small. They were trying to determine if hearing loss while infected with COVID-19 was caused by actual damage to the auditory system, or if it was more like the temporary symptoms of a common cold, with fluid clogging the middle ear.
In this small study, investigators tested 8 asymptomatic individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and 8 healthy volunteers who served as a control group. All participants reported no prior hearing loss. The study provided for the first time quantitative measures for hearing quality following exposure to the virus. “Our study explored whether COVID-19 can cause permanent neural or sensory damage to the hearing system. We found no evidence for such damage,” said co-author Dr Amiel Dror of the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University.
At this stage, according to Dror, their study showed COVID-19 has no impact on hearing loss. This was determined by measuring electrical data from the brainstem to test the route of the soundwaves through the ear until these electric waves were finally received in the brain. They also examined the activity of the inner ear hair cells. Based on their findings, they concluded there was no difference between COVID-19-positive subjects and the control group.
Co-author Dr Eyal Sela of the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University concludes, “This study proposes that the COVID virus does not cause extensive neurological damage but is rather spotty, mostly affecting the sense of smell. Moreover, the hearing impairment among some patients is mostly transient and secondary to fluid buildup in the middle ear, as for the common cold, and therefore likely passes once the acute disease is over.”
It’s important to remember that science and research is ongoing, ever-changing, and always being updated. The researchers are currently conducting a much more comprehensive study with hundreds of patients, including persons who had been severely ill and even ventilated. Let’s hope their results continue to show no permanent hearing loss due to COVID-19—we’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear more!
For now, know that all of us here at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center are here to provide you with the hearing support you need. Whether you need to be fitted with new hearing aids, an earwax cleaning, or have questions, reach out! Give us a call to make an appointment or to ask us any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!