Covid-19: tinnitus, hearing loss… Contamination and vaccination causing hearing problems?

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The WHO says that in some patients, a correlation exists between vaccination against Covid-19 and potential hearing problems. These symptoms are also described in many patients infected with the virus.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, some people have complained that they no longer hear properly. Covid-19 or vaccines: it seems that both are suspected of causing hearing problems, ranging from recurrent tinnitus to partial loss of hearing, to balance problems linked to an ear condition internal.

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

The institution indicates that cases of hearing loss have been identified in patients who have recently received an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine. More than 37,500 cases of hearing disorders after vaccination have been identified in 86 countries: “A hundred cases which may be reversible have been detected in France”, estimates Professor Jean-Louis Montastruc, head of the pharmacovigilance and information center on the drug at the Toulouse University Hospital, questioned by The Dispatch.

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Hearing disorders have been observed in mostly elderly or frail people, with a risk of deafness, nearly 5 days after being vaccinated. “These disorders generally subside after a few weeks, even a few months”, describes Professor Montastruc who insists: “The imputability of the vaccine must however be checked on a case-by-case basis”.

A correlation with Covid-19?

On the Covid-19 side, symptoms linked to hearing problems have been correlated on many occasions to contamination with the virus. The recent spread of the BA.2 sub-variant – which currently represents more than 96% of Covid-19 contaminations in France – is also not unrelated to the multiplication of potential auditory 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 established several months ago, even if the share of the number of patients who had ear problems is not known. The last study on this subject dates back to October 29, 2021, it was published on the scientific site Communications medicine : the work of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) thus demonstrated that the virus can indeed infect the cells of the inner ear. The main cells targeted are, among other things, involved in detecting head movements and maintaining balance.

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Tinnitus (ringing, whistling or crackling ears) is also a symptom cited many times by infected patients. For now, the World Health Organization has not yet described it as a known symptom of Covid-19 and for good reason: tinnitus has a complex association with anxiety and stress, two common phenomena in the general population during this pandemic. “It is a symptom that today affects between 10 and 15% of French people”, explains Professor Jean-Louis Montastruc. The causal link with Covid-19 therefore remains difficult to establish.

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