This devastating side effect of COVID-19 can be permanent

The term, long-haulers refers to those infected with COVID-19 who continue to exhibit characteristic symptoms months after diagnosis.

Thus far, a comparable portion of this demographic evidences a thin range of severe permanent effects like lung scarring, while the rest experience provisional complications like fatigue and tingles.

A new paper published in the BMJ Case Reports journal supplies the first subset with a concerning addition.

You might recall a series of neurological symptoms that started to attend positive COVID-19 cases with greater frequency. Among these was “sensorineural hearing loss” (SSNHL) or hearing loss that results from vestibulocochlear nerve damage.

According to the new risk assessment, it is possible to develop permanent manifestations of the disorder after contracting the novel coronavirus.

“The exact pathophysiology of the disease is still unknown, with the most likely causative factor being a viral infection. Immediate steroids are the best treatment to improve prognosis,” the authors of the new report explained. “This paper presents the first UK case of SSNHL following COVID-19. Physical examination and imaging excluded any other cause of hearing loss. A literature review showed that four other cases have been previously described. Hearing loss can be a significant cause of morbidity and can easily be missed in the intensive care setting. Being aware and screening for SSNHL following COVID-19 enables an early course of steroids, which offers the best chance of recovering hearing.”

The data concerns a 45-year-old COVID-19 inpatient who was transferred to the intensive care unit ten days after testing positive for the disease. His symptoms included labored breathing, fever, cough, and hearing loss in his left ear.

His condition vastly improved after ventilator intervention, administration of remdesivir, intravenous steroids, and a blood transfusion. However, a week after being discharged from the hospital his hearing did not return to normal.

There were no signs of blockage, inflammation, or relevant comorbidities, and his medical records did not indicate any auditory impairments in the past. In fact, aside from asthma, the patient was in good health.

The deteriorating effect SARS-CoV-2 has on the lungs seems to impact cells lining the middle ear in a similar way.

“Sensorineural hearing loss is a subject of ongoing research in the field of otolaryngology with questions focused on the optimal route of steroid administration for treatment. However, SSNHL in the context of COVID-19 has not been widely recognized to date,” the authors continued.

They went on to bullet their finds accordingly:

  • As with idiopathic SSNHL, more research needs to be done to evaluate the benefit of steroid administration
  • Screening for hearing loss is suggested in the hospital environments to avoid missing the treatment window and decreasing hearing loss-associated morbidity
  • Sudden onset sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) can appear following COVID-19

“This is the first reported case of sensorineural hearing loss following COVID-19 infection in the UK. Given the widespread presence of the virus in the population and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate this further. This is especially true given the need to promptly identify and treat the hearing loss and the current difficulty in accessing medical services,” the authors concluded in a university release.