Now that the world is opening back up and we find ourselves celebrating birthdays at Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides once again, it may be tempting to pretend that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. However, many people who have been infected with the coronavirus are still experiencing symptoms, including inner ear problems. We review the link below.
About the Inner Ear
The inner ears contain both the cochlea, which helps us hear, and the semicircular canals, which help us balance. Both are filled with fluid and lined with tiny hair cells.
As soundwaves travel through the ear and make their way to the cochlea, the hair cells are activated. This process converts the sound waves into electrical energy that travels via the auditory nerve to the brain, where it is interpreted as sound. If these cells become damaged or destroyed, it can lead to hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
There are three sets of semicircular canals that detect your body’s movements as the fluid sloshes around and activates the hair cells. One set detects up-down movements, one detects side-to-side movements and one detects tilting movements.
How Does COVID-19 Affect the Inner Ear?
Nobody is fully sure how COVID-19 affects the inner ear. However, experts theorize that it gets there via the nose. They think it’s unlikely that the virus travels there from the outer ear.
Why Wasn’t This Link Established Sooner?
Konstantina Stankovic, M.D., Ph.D., an inner ear researcher and otolaryngologist, published a study that appeared in the journal Communications Medicine in October 2021 about the link between COVID-19 and inner ear problems.
According to Stankovic, “Our study showed evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 can directly infect the inner ear… During the peak of the pandemic, when patients were having more life-threatening complications, they weren’t paying much attention to whether their hearing was reduced or whether they had vertigo. It was easy to dismiss these symptoms as just being a coincidence, and routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 was not yet available.”
What If I’m Experiencing COVID-Related Inner Ear Problems?
If you’ve been infected with COVID-19 and are experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus or dizziness, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert right away so you can be diagnosed and treated.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call Central Plains ENT & Audiology today.