Woman suffers permanent hearing loss in one ear after mild case of COVID-19

October 11, 2020

    While loss of smell and loss of taste are both known symptoms of coronavirus, another sense can also be affected by the novel virus: hearing.

    Meredith Harrell, a 42-year old mom, says that in July she suddenly experienced ringing in one of her ears, and couldn’t hear anything else out of it. “It was like someone flipped a switch,” she shares.

    A week later, she tested positive for COVID-19, and CNN reports that it is believed that the virus caused her hearing loss.

    Dr. Matthew Stewart, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins who teaches otolaryngology, a medical specialty that focuses on the ears, nose, and throat, says that “we’re hearing more and more that people have hearing loss as part of their COVID infection.”

    The usual treatment for hearing loss associated with coronavirus, high doses of oral steroids, didn’t work for Harrell. Her doctors say that she will most likely never get her hearing back in her right ear, and it is possible that the ringing will never stop. She says she will be fitted soon with a hearing aid.

    It is difficult to assess COVID-19’s impact on the inner ear, as doing a biopsy can risk damaging the tissue, say experts. However, Stewart and his colleagues studied the inner ears of three people who died from coronavirus and found COVID-19 in the middle ear of two of them.

    A study published in the International Journal of Audiology found that 13% of COVID-19 patients had experienced changes or ringing in their ears eight weeks after being discharged from the hospital. 138 people participated in the study based out of Manchester, England.

    COVID-19 isn’t the only virus that can cause sudden hearing loss, as patients with meningitis, measles, and mumps have also reported losing their hearing after becoming infected. “Personally I’m suspicious that [coronavirus] has the potential to be worse,” said Stewart.

    He believes that the hearing loss is caused by blood clots in the “extremely small blood vessels” in the inner ear. COVID-19 is known to cause blood clots in patients.

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