The Impact of COVID-19 on our hearing and balance

The recent news that the first man in Britain has suffered permanent hearing loss* after developing COVID-19 is undoubtedly worrying.

The coronavirus family is not new to us, and through our understanding of its other virus family members, we can tell that it is likely to enter the central nervous system in a similar way (1). This is evidenced by COVID’s trademark symptoms of impairing smell and taste (2), and so it is not a far leap to question whether the disease can cause balance or hearing issues as other viral infections have been proven to (3).

Indeed, up to 12% of confirmed COVID patients since the initial outbreak in Wuhan have reported dizziness as an identifiable symptom (4), and other studies have found over 10% suffered from lasting hearing issues (5).

In the current climate-driven by COVID-19 a more sedentary lifestyle is becoming commonplace, and the vestibular system (the motion-detecting organ of our inner-ear) is therefore going to be less stimulated for a growing number of people. When impairment of our inner-ear happens quickly, often through a viral infection, the symptoms can be severe – comprising rapid hearing loss, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, and vertigo lasting for days on end.

It is still too early to prove whether the coronavirus itself can directly affect the inner ear. Armed with this initial information, and foreseeing our less mobile lifestyle, it is highly likely we will see an increase in the number of inner-ear related balance and hearing disorders in people over the coming months.

At Clifton Audiology, we are prepared to help and deal with any consequences of viral illnesses, like COVID-19, on hearing loss and balance disorders.

We have several services and are using the latest state of the art equipment to help diagnose and then recommend treatment or rehabilitation.

Please contact us to find out more.

*BBC News Article

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28103598/
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32353521/
3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/10.1080/14992027.2019.1689432
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32162702/
5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14992027.2020.1798519