COVID-19 associated with hearing loss

Hearing loss and auditory and vestibular problems have been linked to COVID-19 after-effects, according to a new study.

The systematic review of research evidence, led by scientists at the University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), pooled data from 24 studies and estimated the prevalence of hearing loss was 7.6%, tinnitus was 14.8% and vertigo was 7.2% among people who were treated in hospital for the virus.

Professor Kevin Munro and PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij say their data primarily used self-reported questionnaires or medical records to obtain COVID-19-related symptoms, rather than the more scientifically reliable hearing tests.

The study, which was funded by is NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), is published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Audiology.

Kevin Munro, professor of audiology at The University of Manchester and Manchester BRC Hearing Health Lead, 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.

“It is also well-known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss; little is understood about the auditory effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

He added that more work needs to be done because the studies they examined were of varying quality.

Professor Munro previously published a study that suggested more than 13% of patients who were discharged from a hospital reported a change in their hearing and he is now leading a year-long UK study to investigate the possible long-term impact of COVID-19 on hearing among people who have been treated in hospital for the virus.

It will also examine the association between these and other factors, such as lifestyle, the presence of one or more additional conditions and critical care interventions.

Ibrahim Almufarrij said: “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.

“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.”

One year on: an updated systematic review of sarscov-2, COVID-19 and audio-vestibular symptoms. International Journal of Audiology 22 March 2021.


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