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Can Covid-19 affect your ears?

Ear problems during and post covid
Sep, 21, 2022
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How Covid-19 affects our senses

While the effects of the Coronavirus on hearing are little discussed and studied, its action on taste and smell is now widely known. For some time, though, an increasing number of people have been affected by earache in connection with a diagnosis of COVID-19. This has led to debate as to whether COVID-19 can affect your ears.

The most frequent symptoms of COVID-19 generally include fever, dry cough, loss of smell and taste. There are also muscle pains, tiredness, headaches, breathing difficulties and sore throats and even, in some cases, developing full blown pneumonia. As the virus and our knowledge of it have evolved, list of possible signs of the disease has expanded to also include gastrointestinal problems, skin rashes and conjunctivitis.

Ear problems related to Covid 19

Learn more about Covid-19 can affect your ears.

Blocked ears (ear pressure) & Covid

Currently, ear pain or a sensation of pressure in the ear are not included among the COVID-19 symptoms listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Federal Office of Public Health. Likewise, neither do doctors routinely check for the presence of ear disorders when examining subjects suspected of having a Coronavirus infection. However, despite this, earache, pressure in the ear and blocked ears may yet prove to be symptoms of COVID-19, although not as common as fever, dry cough or loss of smell and taste.

In general, coronavirus disease displays a symptomology, at least in part, similar to that of influenza. Flu is known to lead to disorders such as ear pressure, for example caused by otitis media. However, a link with secondary inflammations caused by COVID-19 is equally conceivable, including inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, pharynx and Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx, with consequent ear problems.

Sore ears & Covid

Earache can have numerous causes; for example, inflammation in the ear canal following an infection or otitis media, are often responsible. Injuries, for example to the eardrum, as well as problems in the jaw or teeth, can also be the root cause of earache. The pain can be throbbing, sharp, or dull and is often accompanied by other ailments such as dizziness, hearing difficulties, or uncomfortable ear pressure. As a rule, earache has no complications and is easily taken care of with the use of analgesics. 

In principle, a visit to the doctor is recommended if the pain does not disappear over time, particularly if this is accompanied by other symptoms, including fever, dizziness, or leakage of fluid from the ear. That said though, in times of Coronavirus, it is advisable to pay greater attention to the onset of ear disorders particularly if, following positive diagnosis for Coronavirus infection, you should experience sore ears with Covid.

Earache link to Omicron variant

The evolution of patients affected by the Omicron variant is increasingly giving rise a growth in the reporting of people with a new symptom: sore ears with COVID-19. A symptom that could very well be due to how the new variant is increasingly affecting the upper respiratory tract. Reporting a feeling of tender, sore ears, patients describe it as feeling very similar to an attack of otitis. In reality, though, it would seem it is an inflammation derived from the obstruction and inflammation that the coronavirus causes in the upper airways.

Congestion is closely related to the occlusion of the eustachian tubes. These tubes are small canals connecting the middle ear to the back of the nose and the upper part of the throat and their purpose is to equalize the air pressure in the middle ear with the pressure outside the middle ear. When the upper part of the throat and nose are inflamed, these channels may become blocked and hence, no longer perform their job correctly. In turn, this can give rise to discomfort in the ear and cause temporary hearing problems.

Ear infection & Covid

Even if otitis is not one of the known manifestations of COVID-19, Coronavirus infection and otitis both have similar symptomatology, such as fever and headache. Whilst it is relatively unlikely that COVID-19 can cause an ear infection such as otitis, in the presence of severe symptoms and no signs of improvement, it is advisable to consult a doctor for timely treatment of ear inflammation.

Itchy ears & Covid

Itchy ears can be extremely annoying, and, given that a healthy ear doesn’t usually itch, it is advisable to investigate the cause, particularly if the problem persists. Common causes include bacterial infections: for example, in the form of inflammation of the ear canal. Equally common causes can be skin diseases such as psoriasis, mycosis or neurodermatitis. A link between itchy ears and COVID-19 has not yet been found or included in the areas of ongoing investigation.

Ringing in ears (Tinnitus) & Covid

Tinnitus is a persistent sound in the ears, which often manifests itself as a very annoying noise: a ring, a hiss or a buzz, and almost always perceived solely by the person affected. Tinnitus can significantly compromise a patient’s quality of life, especially if it is constant and becomes chronic.

Although this disorder has been reported by some people infected with Coronavirus, to date, medical science has not established any clear connection between ringing in ears and COVID-19. However, the very lack of available data does not yet allow for these claims to be substantiated or otherwise. What is known that the coronavirus not only affects the lungs, but also the brain, the central nervous system and other organs, thereby making its impact on the auditory system a distinct possibility. 

However, tinnitus and other ear disorders may also have their origins in many other causes: including infections; increased production of ear wax; or a change in pressure in the ear. When tinnitus occurs without any the other, typical COVID-19-19 symptom, an ENT doctor should first be consulted.

Hearing loss after Covid

A clear correlation between sudden hearing loss and COVID-19 has yet to be demonstrated. However, the research in this area is still very much in its infancy. Slightly more frequent, although still very rare, is hearing loss as a complication of a COVID-19 infection. In these cases, hearing impairment does not appear as a symptom of the infection, but develops later as a consequence of Coronavirus disease. 

Some studies have recorded the isolated occurrence of tinnitus and sudden hearing loss in one ear after COVID-19. To date, though, there is still not enough data to draw definitive conclusions on the association between COVID-19, sudden hearing loss and hearing loss. Broadly speaking, current studies show that sudden hearing loss or hearing loss are not among the frequent symptoms of a Coronavirus infection.

Just in case: in case of COVID-19 positivity and a sudden hearing loss, it is, however, always advisable to consult a doctor immediately, to take the necessary measures as quickly as possible.

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