Over the last several months, researchers have linked numerous symptoms to both mild and severe COVID-19 infections. They have also learned that some people continue to experience symptoms for months on end after an infection — even those who initially suffered a mild infection. Now, health experts are reporting there may be a new, scary symptom linked to the virus — hearing loss.
CNN reports that in July, Meredith Harrell started experiencing ringing in her right ear, and soon realized she couldn't hear out of it. "It was like someone flipped a switch," she told the outlet. A week later, she took a COVID-19 test and it was positive — despite no other symptoms. However, she went to an otologist — a doctor who specializes in hearing — who told her that her hearing loss was linked to her coronavirus infection. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Hearing Loss Could Be Part of COVID Infection
"We're hearing more and more that people have hearing loss as part of their COVID infection," Dr. Matthew Stewart, associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told CNN.
While it isn't completely uncommon for viruses — including measles, mumps and meningitis — to cause hearing loss, the symptom hasn't been officially linked to coronavirus. However, there are a few studies supporting a connection.
One study published in the International Journal of Audiology found that 13% of 138 people discharged from the hospital reported hearing changes or ringing of the ears. Another report, the Long Hauler Survey, found that 233 out of 1,567 of surveyed COVID survivors reported tinnitus or "ringing in the ears."
Coronavirus in the Middle Ear
Stewart, who was part of a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, conducted autopsies on three people who died of COVID, finding novel coronavirus in the middle ear and mastoid bone in the skull, which is located just behind the ear.
He told CNN that he is "suspicious that [the novel coronavirus] has the potential to be worse" than other viruses in terms of hearing damage, due to its blood clotting abilities in other parts of the body and possibly in the "extremely small blood vessels" in the inner ear.
"The capillaries in the inner ear are the smallest in the human body, so it wouldn't take much to block them," adds Kevin Munro, an audiological scientist who co-authored the IJA study. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.