Covid-19 may cause long-term hearing loss, growing evidence suggests

Researchers from the University of Manchester have uncovered a strong association between Covid-19 infection and hearing loss and other auditory problems, hinting that the virus may yet inflict more long-term damage on humanity.

Professor Kevin Munro and PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij from the University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) analysed 56 studies, with evidence indicating some link between Covid-19 and auditory and inner ear problems. 

They found an overall prevalence of hearing loss of 7.6%, tinnitus of 14.8%, and vertigo of 7.2% among Covid-19 patients. 

“It is also well-known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss; little is understood about the auditory effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Munro said.

He acknowledged a variance in quality among the studies he and his team had analysed, as many drew data from self-reported questionnaires or medical records of Covid-related symptoms, rather than standardised, medically reliable hearing tests, and called for more thorough investigations to be carried out. 

Also on Scientists identify potential culprit behind post-Covid-19 ‘brain fog’

Munro and his fellow experts are currently conducting their own study to estimate and catalogue Covid-19-related hearing disorders and discover how exactly the virus impacts the human auditory system. 

Already, Munro and his team have found that some 13% of Covid patients who were discharged from hospital reported a change in their hearing, in a worrying sign of what may yet await humanity in a post-pandemic world. 

“Over the last few months I have received numerous emails from people who reported a change in their hearing, or tinnitus after having Covid-19,” Munro said.

“While this is alarming, caution is required as it is unclear if changes to hearing are directly attributed to Covid-19 or to other factors, such as treatments to deliver urgent care.”

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