COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, can have significant health impacts and long-term complications. One emerging area of research is the long-term effects of COVID-19 on hearing. Evidence is emerging that coronavirus infections have affected some patients' hearing, whether from treatments or the virus itself.
The March suicide of Kent Taylor, founder, and CEO of Texas Roadhouse has brought even more attention to this issue. Taylor suffered many long-term problems related to the virus, but the worst and most prominent was the tinnitus he developed.
Now scientists are suggesting there may be a link between COVID-19 and hearing issues. Tinnitus is even on the United Kingdom's National Health Service's list of COVID-19 symptoms. While no extensive studies have been done establishing auditory complications resulting from COVID-19, many case studies exist that reveal side effects related to hearing and the ear. Let's review what we have learned from these case studies.
Possible damage to the inner ear
While there is little published information about the direct effect of coronavirus on the middle ear, auditory problems are common in other viral infections. Measles, for example, is known to cause ear infections and nerve swelling, which can lead to hearing loss. Small studies have shown that coronavirus-diagnosed patients had signs indicating that outer hair cell function could be affected.
Hearing loss and tinnitus
One thing that seems to be more common with people who've had the virus is the loss of hearing or tinnitus later in the infection process, sometimes weeks and even months after first contracting the virus. Scientists in the UK have identified ringing in the ear as a symptom in about 30% of COVID-19 cases.
The science is preliminary, so don't be worried, but it is helpful to be aware of potential side effects to your hearing from a COVID-19 infection. To date, there are no definite or predictable patterns that hearing loss or tinnitus from COVID-19 can occur. More research is required so we can fully understand the extent of long-term consequences.
If you are struggling with hearing loss or tinnitus, please seek medical help and schedule an appointment with your audiologist. There's help out there, and you are not alone.