The Facts About COVID-19 and Hearing Loss

After considerable research over the past two years, the coronavirus has been linked to many long-term complications, including heart and lung damage and neurological disorders. But new research suggests that hearing loss can, on rare occasions, result from coronavirus infection and vaccination. 

June 14, 2022

Even though COVID-19 is no longer dominating the news headlines, it still exists. And while it does not seem to be running rampant like last year, there are still active cases across the country. 

After considerable research over the past two years, the coronavirus has been linked to many long-term complications, including heart and lung damage and neurological disorders. But new research suggests that hearing loss can, on rare occasions, result from coronavirus infection and vaccination. 

In the big picture, this isn't surprising news. There are several viral and bacterial infections known to cause sudden hearing loss. But we must remind our readers and patients that sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency. If you experience sudden hearing loss, please seek medical attention immediately.

In the remainder of this article, we'll briefly discuss some research surrounding SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) related to hearing loss. We are not recommending whether someone should or should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But we hope to equip you with additional insight should you or a loved one need to decide to receive the vaccine in the future.

Hearing Loss from COVID-19 Vaccines?

Two studies published this year in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery looked at whether hearing loss could occur after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. In one of those studies, which included about 2.5 million people, only 91 experienced sudden hearing loss after the first dose and 79 people after the second. Those are incredibly low numbers.

In a separate study that examined a smaller data set, researchers found that the rate of sudden hearing loss after receiving vaccination was no higher than what would be expected in the general population. 

Given these results, infectious disease experts argue that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks of hearing loss.

Hearing Loss from COVID-19 Infection?

All reports suggest that sudden hearing loss due to a coronavirus infection, while not unheard of, is rare. However, it appears that it may be slightly more common to develop hearing loss, tinnitus, or dizziness days or weeks after becoming infected with the coronavirus.

A systemic review from February 2021 pooled data on auditory complications associated with the coronavirus and reports:

  • 7.6% of people infected report hearing loss
  • 14.8% report tinnitus
  • 7.2% report vertigo

However, the researchers point out that there is still a lack of high-quality studies on this topic, and larger, more comprehensive research is needed to reach a confident conclusion.

COVID-19 and Tinnitus?

While we continue to learn about the coronavirus and its effects on the body, we know that this virus can infect cells of the inner ear. So it's logical to connect a COVID-19 infection with tinnitus and other hearing issues. However, tinnitus is also a symptom related to age, high blood pressure, stress, and many other lifestyle considerations. It's so common that it's difficult to know what—if any—connection exists between COVID-19 (or its vaccine) and experiencing tinnitus.

COVID-19 and Dizziness?

Some coronavirus patients have experienced what's been called "covid long-haulers," which is characterized by prolonged illness and a range of atypical symptoms. In a survey of 650 long-haulers, about two-thirds reported dizziness and vertigo, and only one reported hearing loss. The data simply does not point to a predictable pattern of why or when someone might experience dizziness associated with a coronavirus infection.

The Bottom Line

The reality is that the coronavirus will continue to evolve and mutate, and much more research is needed before scientists fully understand how the virus affects hearing. As the pandemic has seemingly ended and research efforts shift to study the long-term effects of the coronavirus, we expect to know more in the coming months and years. Check back here for ongoing updates. 

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