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October 16, 2020 -- Hearing loss could be a rare side effect of coronavirus infection for some people, according to a new case report about a patient in the UK.

If recognized early, treatment could reverse part of the hearing loss and stop it from becoming worse, according to the doctors from University College London and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital.

“Immediate steroids are the best treatment to improve prognosis,” they wrote in BMJ Case Reports.

Every year, patients report sudden hearing loss to their doctors, which can stem from viral infections, the flu and other causes. So far, a few cases have been linked with COVID-19, and there may be more that have been unreported. Earlier this year, several patients reported hearing loss after being hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a July report in the International Journal of Audiology.

In the UK case, a 45-year-old man with asthma reported hearing loss in one ear while being treated for COVID-19 at the hospital. He had severe coronavirus symptoms and was placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. He received intravenous steroids, the antiviral drug remdesivir and a blood transfusion and began to recover.

A week after the breathing tube was removed, he noticed ringing in his left ear and then sudden hearing loss. The ear specialists didn’t find blockages or inflammation, but a hearing test showed that he lost a substantial amount of hearing in the ear. After steroid injections and tablets, the patient’s hearing partially recovered.

“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,” they wrote.

When infecting the body, the coronavirus attacks particular types of cells in the lungs and blood. The virus has been found in similar cells in the middle ear, the doctors explained. The virus can also cause an overwhelming inflammatory response in the body and an increase in the chemicals that can lead to hearing loss.

“Given the widespread presence of the virus in the population and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate this further,” they wrote.

Show Sources

BMJ Case Reports, “Sudden irreversible hearing loss post COVID-19.”

International Journal of Audiology, “Persistent self-reported changes in hearing and tinnitus in post-hospitalization COVID-19 cases.”

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