The first reported case of a UK patient experiencing sudden hearing loss after contracting Covid-19 has been reported in BMJ Case Reports. The 45-year-old man now has permanent hearing loss after suspected damage to either the hearing nerve or the middle ear, or possibly both.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHNL) is characterized by a rapid hearing loss of at least 30 dB within a few days. Viruses can cause SSHNL by triggering an immune response that either directly or indirectly damages the delicate structures within. Influenza and HSV-1 (among others) are well documented to cause SSHNL, but there have been only a few cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus behind Covid-19) resulting in hearing loss, none of which were in the UK.
In this case report, the patient was admitted to a London hospital on day 10 of Covid-19 symptoms. Due to the virus and pre-existing asthma, the man struggled to breathe and was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). After a 30-day treatment period, his symptoms improved and he was moved out of ICU, but it was not long before a new problem arose.
A week after leaving ICU, the man complained of a ringing in his left ear, and soon after experienced hearing loss in that ear. Despite having no pre-existing hearing ailments, his left ear now has significant hearing loss.
The doctors tested the patient for both HIV and influenza, but he was negative – it is therefore likely the causative agent was the SARS-CoV-2 infection. Oral corticosteroids, which have previously shown to be highly effective at combatting Covid-19, were administered and partially improved his hearing. The doctors state that measures should now be put in place to screen for hearing loss early in Covid-19 cases to administer treatment in time to prevent hearing loss.
This is not the first case of sudden hearing loss that has been attributed to Covid-19. A 60-year-old man who suffered a severe case of Covid-19 pneumonia in June 2020 lost all hearing in his right ear and had significant hearing loss in his left ear, and now lives with a cochlear implant.
Covid-19 has been associated with an increasing number of neurological changes and disorders, from confusion and fatigue to stroke and Parkinson’s disease. These disorders are a testament to the wide-ranging effects of Covid-19 infection and the need to continue to study its impact on the body.
[H/T: BBC News]