COVID-19 and Your Hearing
By Gail M. Seigel, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Ocular and Auditory Neuroscience
Center for Hearing & Deafness
University at Buffalo
Does SARS-CoV-2 infection cause hearing loss and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ears)?
One review article examined multiple studies published around the world and found that there were instances where hearing deficits were reported during SARS-CoV-2 infection (Almufarrij and Munro 2021). This review analyzed 56 SARS-CoV-2 studies, 54% of which investigated hearing loss, with an estimated prevalence of 7.6%. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) was investigated in 26 studies, and all reported it to be present, with an estimated prevalence of 14.8%. Vertigo (a spinning sensation) had an estimated prevalence of 7.2%. There are some caveats to these numbers, keeping in mind that they come from a variety of studies that often lacked appropriate control (uninfected) subjects and/or relied upon self-reporting by the patients. As such, much more work needs to be done in terms of larger and better-controlled studies to verify these potential associations between SARS-CoV-2 infection and auditory damage.
How could SARS-CoV-2 infection interfere with our hearing?
There are some proposed mechanisms for how SARS-CoV-2 infection could interfere with normal hearing processes (Saniasiaya, 2021). For one, the virus may bind to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors and/or cause inflammation in the auditory regions of the brain. Other possibilities include blood vessel disruption or inflammation in inner ear structures. These possibilities are not mutually exclusive. The potential association of SARS-CoV-2 with hearing loss and the proposed damaging mechanisms (both short-term and long-term) are critical areas for further investigation.
How can I prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection from potentially damaging my hearing?
The best way to help prevent the damaging effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection is to get vaccinated. There are several highly protective COVID-19 vaccines available at your doctor’s office and local pharmacies at no cost to you. These vaccines protect well against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The vaccines have been administered to hundreds of millions of people throughout the world with very few adverse events. In addition, masking in public indoor gatherings, social distancing (six feet), and a good hand-washing routine will also help prevent infection.
Although it seems like the pandemic has been around forever, it’s only been about a year and a half (as of this blog entry). We are still in the earliest stages of understanding the full effects of COVID-19, particularly long-term. For that, we have to rely on the passage of time. Right now, our best defense is prevention by getting vaccinated and following public health guidelines.
Good luck, and may all the sounds you hear be pleasant ones.
Young, Y. H. (2020) Contemporary Review of the Causes and Differential Diagnosis of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, International Journal of Audiology, 59:4, 243–253, DOI: 10.1080/14992027.2019.1689432.
Almufarrij, I. and Munro, K.J. (2021) One year on: an updated systematic review of SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 and audio-vestibular symptoms, International Journal of Audiology, 60:12, 935-945, DOI:
Saniasiaya, J. (2021) Hearing Loss in SARS-CoV-2: What Do We Know? Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, 100(2_suppl): 152S–154S, DOI:10.1177/0145561320946902.