How does coronavirus affect our hearing abilities?
The sense of hearing is extremely important to humans. It enables us to communicate with others and to find our way around. But its performance depends on many factors. We already know that various viral infections have a direct impact on our health and can cause permanent or temporary hearing loss. What about SARS-CoV-2?
It turns out that in the age of pandemic - the 21st century - hearing can be strained very easily
Each of us, through the long time spent at home and the lack of opportunities to participate in social life outside, more often reached for the headphones, the phone or spent long hours in front of audio equipment. It's not just in our personal lives. The decision of many companies to move to remote working has forced us to reach for the computer or tablet more often. We realized how important good audio transmission is for video conferencing and how much depends on hearing correctly. In addition to the technical requirements, listening pleasure depends primarily on a well-tuned sense of hearing.
Hearing impaired people were particularly affected by the changes in everyday life brought about by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Wearing protective masks played a key role here. Lack of non-verbal communication meant that adequate understanding of the interlocutor began to depend solely on one's hearing. The masks muffled the speech signal, especially the low frequencies. We began to have considerable difficulty in understanding consonants. Many people now realize that they may have a significant hearing loss.
Does getting sick from SARS-CoV-2 have a direct impact on hearing loss?
The most common symptoms caused by coronavirus include fever, cough, fatigue, and muscle pain. Less common are diarrhea, conjunctivitis, risk of loss of the sense of taste and smell. Can we include hearing loss?
We have evidence that many viral infections can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. It is not clear what the consequences of SARS-CoV-2 will be, but recent studies show that it may affect the inner ear. The virus can enter its cells and lead to their death, and extract toxic substances - cytokines. Many patients who report problems after having the disease find that their hearing ability is impaired.
- During cadaveric sessions of patients diagnosed with Covid-19, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (USA), observed the presence of the virus in the middle ear.
- Sudden deafness was found among 16 patients from Thailand, examining the incidence of sensorineural hearing loss caused by coronavirus infection.
- 13% of those treated at Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reported significant hearing loss during their medical interview, just eight weeks after hospital discharge.
- "The SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to invade the nerve cells responsible for hearing, individual nerve fibres, and lead to a number of pathological changes. The most common changes that patients report are suddenly appearing tinnitus, which is a symptom of damaged auditory cells," - says Professor Witold Szyfter from the Department of Otolaryngology and Laryngological Oncology of the Poznań University of Medical Sciences.
Coronavirus is likely to be responsible for many cases of hearing loss. The lifestyle we have led while living in partial isolation can also contribute. You should therefore not ignore any symptoms of hearing loss that you notice at this particular time. We recommend that you see an ENT specialist as soon as possible and, as always, remind you to look after your hearing.
Study Estimates Two-Thirds of COVID-19 Hospitalizations Due to Four Conditions
COVID-19 Story Tip: Have You Heard? Middle Ear, Mastoid Harbor Sars-Cov-2 and May Pose Risk for Medical Staffs
Swain S.K., Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss among COVID-19 Patients-Our Experiences at an Indian Teaching Hospital
Munro K., J., Persistent self-reported changes in hearing and tinnitus in post-hospitalisation COVID-19 cases
JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Anna Cierpicka-Świtkowska Czy covid może przyczynić się do utraty słuchu, 2020
Tvp Poznań, wywiad z prof. Witoldem Szyfter