There’s still a great deal to know about COVID-19. It’s hard to believe, but it’s only been with us for less than a year (but what a long less-than-a-year it’s been). But unlike diseases that have been researched for decades, the medical community is still just scratching the surface of what there is to know about COVID-19.
The potential aftereffects of the virus on hearing are one area that still needs to be better understood. But preliminary information is troubling.
The fact that COVID-19 is not exclusively a respiratory ailment is at the core of potential hearing issues. Many people who get COVID-19 are struck with neurologic and heart-related problems. And the auditory system is deeply dependent on both the nervous and circulatory systems.
Any decrease in the efficient transfer of oxygen through the bloodstream can cause problems, or even permanent damage, to the workings of the inner ear. Likewise, any disruption with the complex nerve relays between the ear’s core and the brain’s auditory cortex can bring about hearing problems both temporary and enduring.
Then there’s the more direct risk of the virus spreading to the inner ear itself and causing damage. Many other viruses can do this and it’s a rosy scenario to believe COVID-19 can’t.
Early data suggests that some patients are suffering from hearing issues in the aftermath of their infection. There simply hasn’t been enough time for large studies to be undertaken, but a recent British report released on July 31st tracked 120 people who had been hospitalized for COVID. It found that 13 percent of them reported auditory issues — either degraded hearing or tinnitus.
Unfortunately, hearing health is yet another area where COVID-19 will probably wreak havoc.