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Another Side Effect of COVID-19 -- Lasting Hearing Problems?
  • Steven Reinberg
  • Posted July 31, 2020

Another Side Effect of COVID-19 -- Lasting Hearing Problems?

The aftereffects of COVID-19 are numerous, and now British researchers report that many patients recovering from infection with the new coronavirus have lingering hearing problems.

For the study, 120 U.K. patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 took part in a phone survey.

When the patients were asked if they had any changes in their hearing, 13% said it was worse. Eight patients said their hearing had deteriorated and eight said they had tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

"We already know that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss, and coronaviruses can damage the nerves that carry information to and from the brain," said researcher Kevin Munro, a professor of audiology at the University of Manchester.

"It is possible, in theory, that COVID-19 could cause problems with parts of the auditory system including the middle ear or cochlea," he said in a university news release.

Conditions such as auditory neuropathy, a hearing problem in which the cochlea is functioning but transmission along the auditory nerve to the brain is impaired, could make it hard to hear over background noise, Munro added.

Guillain-Barre syndrome, which has been associated with COVID-19, is also tied to auditory neuropathy.

But more research is needed to pinpoint exactly how the virus affects hearing, the researchers noted.

"While we are reasonably confident in the differentiation of preexisting and recent changes in hearing and tinnitus, we urge caution," Munro said.

"It is possible that factors other than COVID-19 may impact on preexisting hearing loss and tinnitus. These might include stress and anxiety, including the use of face masks that make communication more difficult, medications used to treat COVID-19 that could damage the ear, or other factors related to being critically ill," he explained.

The report was published July 31 in the International Journal of Audiology.

More information

For more on COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: University of Manchester, news release, July 31, 2020
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