Especially in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, the phrase “novel coronavirus” was often used, with novel meaning “new.” Coronaviruses are a family of viruses distinguished by their crown-like spikes (corona means crown in Latin) and what we’re facing is the newest variation.
And even though it seems like COVID has been with us forever already, there is — as with any new disease — still a great deal to learn about it. This includes any effect it might have on hearing.
The simple fact is that there’s not been enough research done on this specific topic yet. The medical community has rightly been focused on increasing survivability and in some ways is working in triage mode on a global scale.
But there are some initial findings that a significant percentage of patients suffering from a severe case of COVID experience neurologic symptoms (in addition to the well-known respiratory issues). Since hearing is entwined with the operation of the nervous system, there is a chance that some people who recover from COVID will experience changes in their hearing.
It is not uncommon for other viruses to infect the inner ear and cause issues. Unfortunately, there are some preliminary reports of COVID patients suffering hearing loss — though there has not been any major, peer-reviewed research on the topic as of yet.
Even in cases where direct infection does not occur, the stress of surviving — or just dealing with social isolation while avoiding — COVID could bring on a bout of tinnitus. It’s already known that anxiety and depression make persistent tinnitus more likely. And COVID has certainly made life more stressful for many people.
Don’t be shy about contacting your hearing health professional if you have questions or feel like you have a hearing issue.