Covid-19: tinnitus, hearing loss… Contagion and vaccination cause hearing problems?

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The WHO says there is a link between vaccination against Covid-19 and possible hearing problems in some patients. These symptoms are also described in many patients infected with the virus.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, some people have complained that they can no longer hear properly. Covid-19 or vaccines: both appear to be suspected of causing hearing problems ranging from recurring tinnitus to partial hearing loss and balance problems related to an inner ear condition.

In a pharmaceutical information bulletin published this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that it aims to “identify hearing loss (including sudden cases) and tinnitus following vaccination against Covid-19 as a preliminary signal for further evaluation”.

The institution points out that cases of hearing loss have been detected in patients who have recently received an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine. More than 37,500 cases of post-vaccination hearing impairment have been identified in 86 countries: “One hundred potentially reversible cases have been identified in France”, estimates Professor Jean-Louis Montastruc, head of the Pharmacovigilance and Information Center for the drug at the Toulouse University Hospital, questioned by The shipping.

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Hearing impairments were observed almost 5 days after vaccination in mostly elderly or frail individuals at risk of deafness. “These disorders usually subside after a few weeks, even months,” describes Professor Montastruc, who emphasizes: “However, the accountability of the vaccine must be checked on a case-by-case basis.”

A connection with Covid-19?

On the Covid-19 side, symptoms related to hearing problems have been linked to contamination with the virus on many occasions. The recent spread of the BA.2 subvariant – which currently accounts for more than 96% of Covid-19 contamination in France – is also not unrelated to the proliferation of potential hearing symptoms. This new strain of SARS-CoV-2 attacks the ENT sphere more than its predecessors: your throat, your nose, your mouth …

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But this link between hearing problems and Covid-19 contamination was found a few months ago, although the percentage of patients with ear problems is not known. The last study on this topic is from October 29, 2021, it was published on the scientific page communication medicine : The work of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) thus showed that the virus can indeed infect the cells of the inner ear. The targeted chief cells are involved, among other things, in recognizing head movements and maintaining balance.

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Tinnitus (ringing, whistling or crackling in the ears) is also a symptom frequently reported by infected patients. For now, the World Health Organization has yet to describe it as a known symptom of Covid-19, and with good reason: tinnitus has a complex association with anxiety and stress, two common phenomena in the general population during this pandemic. “It’s a symptom that affects between 10 and 15% of French people today,” explains Professor Jean-Louis Montastruc. The causal link with Covid-19 therefore remains difficult to establish.

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