Covid-19 may lead to sudden or permanent hearing loss in some patients: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 15, 2020 Published on October 15, 2020

There is a lack of discussion on the relationship between Covid-19 and hearing

Some patients may need to be on steroids to prevent hearing loss

The after effects of novel coronavirus can cause sudden and permanent hearing loss in some patients, as per the study conducted by researchers at the University College London.

According to the researchers, awareness of this possible side effect is important as these patients may require to be on steroids to prevent hearing loss.

Cause unknown

The researchers maintained that the cause of such a side effect is still unknown. However, the condition sometimes follows a viral infection, such as flu or herpes.

The researchers examined the case of a 45-year-old man with asthma who was referred to the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in the United Kingdom. The man had experienced sudden hearing loss in one ear while being treated for Covid-19.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

The researchers revealed that the patient was infected with the virus and was later shifted to the intensive care unit after developing breathing issues. He was put on a ventilator for 30 days, and developed other complications as a result, the study noted.

The researchers noted that he was treated with the antiviral drug remdesivir, intravenous steroids, and a blood transfusion after which he started recuperating.

However, the patient noticed ringing (tinnitus) in his left ear followed by sudden hearing loss in that ear a week after the breathing tube was removed and he left intensive care.

The scientists believe that he had not lost his hearing or had ear problems before, and had only asthma as co-morbidity.

On examining his ear canals, they found that there were no blockages or inflammation, but a hearing test showed that he had substantially lost his hearing in the left ear.

He was treated with steroid tablets and injections after which his hearing partially recovered, the study noted.

The scientists said he tested negative for other potential causes, including rheumatoid arthritis, flu, and HIV. This prompted the researchers to conclude that his hearing loss was associated with Covid-19 infection.

Covid and hearing

The researchers wrote in their study: “Despite the considerable literature on Covid-19 and the various symptoms associated with the virus, there is a lack of discussion on the relationship between Covid-19 and hearing.”

“Hearing loss and tinnitus are symptoms that have been seen in patients with both Covid-19 and influenza virus, but have not been highlighted,” they added.

The scientists also examined similar cases that had been reported since the initial phase of the pandemic. The first case of hearing loss associated with Covid-19 was reported in April.

They said the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to a particular type of cell lining the lungs, and could also infect similar cells lining the middle ear.

According to the authors of the study, the virus also generates an inflammatory response and an increase in the chemicals that have been linked to hearing loss.

“Given the widespread presence of the virus in the population and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate this further,” researchers stated.

“This is especially true given the need to promptly identify and treat the hearing loss and the current difficulty in accessing medical services,” they added.

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Published on October 15, 2020
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