PARIS | Sudden and permanent hearing loss, although rare, could be linked to COVID-19 in some people, doctors warn, reporting British ‘first case’ in review BMJ Case Reports.
• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic
In addition to the plethora of symptoms of COVID-19, they say this possible side effect of the infection.
“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,” lament these specialists.
They advocate screening for hearing loss in hospitals, including intensive care where it is easy to miss, to allow rapid treatment with steroids that offers the best chance of hearing recovery.
So far, only a few other cases associated with COVID-19 have been reported, and none in the UK, according to these specialists.
Sudden hearing loss is commonly seen by ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, with around 5 to 160 cases per 100,000 people each year. The causes are not clear, but this sensory deficit can be due, for example, to a blocked blood vessel, but also following a viral infection, such as influenza, herpes viruses or cytomegalovirus.
The authors describe the case of a 45-year-old man with asthma being treated for COVID-19 at their hospital.
Put on a ventilator in intensive care because he was having trouble breathing, he started to get better after his treatment (remdesivir, intravenous steroids and a therapeutic exchange of blood plasma …).
A week after the breathing tube was removed and discharged from resuscitation, he noticed an abnormal ringing sensation (mark of tinnitus) in his left ear followed by sudden hearing loss.
On examination, his ear canals were not blocked or inflamed and his eardrums were intact. A hearing test confirmed hearing loss in his left ear from which he only partially recovered after treatment with corticosteroids.
With other possible causes, such as the flu, HIV, or rheumatoid arthritis (a form of rheumatism) being ruled out, doctors concluded his hearing loss was associated with COVID-19, the review said.
The first case of hearing loss mentioning COVID-19 alone was reported in April 2020 in Thailand.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, which binds to a particular type of cells lining the lungs, was recently found in similar cells in the ear. This virus also generates an inflammatory reaction and an increase in substances (cytokines) that have been implicated in hearing loss, the authors explain.