Research suggests hearing loss and other auditory problems associated with COVID-19

March 25, 2021
Research suggests hearing loss and other auditory problems associated with COVID-19

Audiologists from Manchester, UK, have found a surprising link between COVID-19 and a number of audio-vestibular symptoms, including tinnitus, in a new systematic review about the disease. As well as patients reporting COVID-19 exacerbating their pre-existing tinnitus, for example, some believe the disease could initiate the appearance of tinnitus.

Professor Kevin Munro, from the University of Manchester, suggests tinnitus is a condition that can appear for a number of reasons – actual ear damage caused by noise or infection, or psychological triggers such as stress and anxiety. So although there may be reasonable hypotheses demonstrating how the virus behind COVID-19 could directly damage one’s hearing, he says the current evidence – based on anecdotal reports and self-reported symptoms – is not of a good enough quality to prove causality.

Munro and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research postgraduate scientist Ibrahim Almufarrij found hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo can all be associated with SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, noted after finding multiple cases of these hearing problems in longer bouts of infection.A pooled data analysis of 28 case reports and 28 cross-sectional studies revealed 7.6% of COVID-19 cases report hearing loss, 7.2% report vertigo and 14.8% report tinnitus.

“It is possible the virus attacks and damages the auditory system [or] the mental and emotional stress of the pandemic may be the trigger. But we need to be careful when interpreting these findings as it’s not always clear if studies are reporting existing or new symptoms,” said Munro.

Currently, Munro is leading a year-long study which tracks COVID-19 patients after discharge from hospital. He hopes the study will provide more valuable insight between hearing problems and COVID-19.

Read: Medical breakthroughs in the treatment of hearing loss

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Category: Education, Features

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