Is There a Link Between COVID-19 and Hearing Loss?

by | Sep 14, 2020 | Expert Insights, Hearing Loss, Patient Resources

At North Houston Hearing Solutions, we understand staying focused on the latest science related to hearing loss is an essential component of providing high-quality care. During the pandemic, we are regularly reviewing studies that cover possible links between COVID-19 and hearing loss.

The latest research suggests there’s a strong connection between hearing loss and COVID-19.  Here’s a brief overview of what’s known about the relationship between COVID-19 and hearing loss.

SARS-CoV-2 Has Been Found in the Middle Ear

In the scientific community, we already know several viruses can cause hearing loss. Currently, there’s not enough evidence to say definitively that COVID-19 is causing hearing loss. However, the latest research points to that possibility.

Physicians at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recently identified the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the middle ear of COVID-19 patients.

Inflammation is a common symptom in body parts infected by a virus. When SARS-CoV-2 infects an ear, it wouldn’t be surprising if the result was inflammation that brings about problems such as hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and imbalance, according to C. Matthew Stewart, one of the study’s authors.

Hearing Loss Detected in Asymptomatic COVID-19 Patients

Another study compared the hearing of non-infected subjects to the hearing of COVID-19 patients aged 20 to 50 who did not have symptoms of the virus. Hearing evaluations detected hearing loss in all asymptomatic COVID-19 patients.

The study’s author believes COVID-19 damaged hair cells in the cochlea, which resulted in hearing loss. Although this study presents a strong case, more research is necessary before we can conclude COVID-19 has the impact the author suggests.

Ototoxic Medications Could Be a Factor

As medical professionals, we know certain medications are ototoxic. That means those drugs have the potential to damage the ear.

Ototoxic medications may cause ear problems like hearing loss, imbalance, or ringing in the ears. Doctors have used known ototoxic drugs like remdesivir, azithromycin, and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

The Pandemic Is Also Revealing Pre-Existing Hearing Loss 

Many hearing centers, including ours, have had patients come to us because the pandemic has made it difficult to live with pre-existing hearing loss.

These patients fall into two categories. Some knew they were having trouble with their hearing before the pandemic, but they had not sought treatment. Others were unaware of their hearing loss.

For both groups, the sound of people speaking through masks tends to be too muffled to understand. Masks also hide visual cues like facial expressions that “filled in” what they couldn’t hear.

It’s usually challenging for these patients to understand a speaker who is at least six feet away to maintain social distancing.

Houston Hearing Care Specialists

We’ve covered hearing loss that could be caused by COVID-19, ototoxic medications, and reasons that predate the pandemic. If you or a loved one suspects hearing loss due to any of those causes, our caring hearing professionals are available to help.

Contact us to schedule a hearing assessment with one of our doctors of audiology.

For a reminder of the protocols in place to keep you safe, follow this link.

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Dr. Lacey Brooks, CCC-A, FAAA - Doctor of Audiology

Dr. Lacey Brooks received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry in 2003, and earned her Doctorate of Audiology in 2009. She completed her clinical internships and residency at various facilities within Houston Medical Center. Dr. Brooks is a preferred provider for the American Institute of Balance (ABI), a professional member of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), a member of the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA) and is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also the vice president of the Louisiana State University Houston Chapter Alumni Association. In addition to her years of experience identifying, diagnosing and treating all types and degrees of hearing loss, and vestibular disorders, Dr. Brooks has spent the last 13 years becoming an expert in Tinnitus management and therapy. Dr. Brooks is also one of the few providers in the country certified for Lyric Implantable Devices. For over seven years, Dr. Brooks successfully ran and operated more than six audiology clinics for one of the largest practices in the state of Texas before joining the North Houston Hearing Solutions team in 2016. Dr. Brooks prides herself on providing her patients with the highest quality of care. She loves her patients dearly and feels so fortunate that she gets to help improve their daily lives. This love, combined with her impressive skill set, business experience and passion for helping people hear has made Dr. Lacey Brooks a wonderful addition to the North Houston Hearing Solutions’ team. When not at the office, Dr. Brooks enjoys spending time with her daughter, husband, family, and friends. Dr. Brooks is also very involved in her church and with mission work in her community and abroad.

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