COVID-19 may be associated with tinnitus, hearing loss and vertigo - study

A recent study by the head researcher claims 13% of discharged patients report a change in their hearing.

COVID-19 face mask (photo credit: UNSPLASH)
COVID-19 face mask
(photo credit: UNSPLASH)
British researchers have linked hearing loss with COVID-19 infections, according to a comprehensive study of data gathered amid the pandemic.
The University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) scientists delved into 56 different studies and found that there had been a link between having had COVID-19 AND hearing and auditory issues.
In just under half of the studies (24) the researchers said that the prevalence of hearing loss symptoms stood at around "7.6%, tinnitus was 14.8% and vertigo was 7.2%."
The study used a self-reported questionnaire paired with medical records to determine the nature of COVID-19 symptoms, in lieu of proper hearing tests, the university said.
“There is an urgent need for a carefully conducted clinical and diagnostic study to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the auditory system," said Kevin Munro, Professor of Audiology at The University of Manchester and Manchester BRC Hearing Health lead professor, according to the university.
“It is also well-known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss, [but] little is understood about the auditory effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus," he added. "Though this review provides further evidence for an association, the studies we looked at were of varying quality so more work needs to be done.”
Munro is currently heading a study to test the effects of serious COVID-19 infections on hearing in patients treated in the hospital, and what parts of the auditory system are affected, as well as whether urgent care methods could have led to some of these issues.
A recent study by Munro claims 13% of discharged patients report a change in their hearing.
“Though the evidence is of varying quality, more and more studies are being carried out so the evidence base is growing. What we really need are studies that compare COVID-19 cases with controls, such as patients admitted to hospital with other health conditions," said PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij, and co-author of the study.
“Though caution needs to be taken, we hope this study will add to the weight of scientific evidence that there is a strong association between COVID-19 and hearing problems,” he said, according to the report.
“Over the last few months I have received numerous emails from people who reported a change in their hearing, or tinnitus after having COVID-19," Munro concluded. “While this is alarming, caution is required as it is unclear if changes to hearing are directly attributed to COVID-19 or to other factors, such as treatments to deliver urgent care.”
Their findings were published in the International Journal of Audiology.