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Although it is uncommon for sudden permanent hearing loss in some people to appear to be linked to COVID-19 infection, doctors warn and report the first case in the UK in BMJ Case Reports.
Awareness of this potential side effect is important as immediate steroid treatment can reverse this debilitating condition, they point out.
Sudden hearing loss is often seen by ear, nose and throat specialists. Around 5 to 160 cases per 100,000 people are reported each year. It’s not clear what the causes are, but the condition can follow a viral infection such as the flu, herpes, or cytomegalovirus.
Despite a lot of published research on sudden hearing loss, only a handful of other cases related to COVID-19 have been reported, and so far none in the UK.
Doctors describe a case of a 45-year-old man with asthma who was referred to the ear, nose and throat department at his hospital after suddenly having a hearing loss in one ear while being hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection has been.
He was hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms that lasted 10 days. He was transferred to the intensive care unit because he was having difficulty breathing.
He was ventilated for 30 days and developed other complications as a result. He was treated with remdesivir, intravenous steroids, and a blood transfusion, which made him feel better.
But a week after the air tubing was removed and he left the intensive care unit, he noticed ringing (tinnitus) in his left ear, followed by a sudden hearing loss in that ear.
He had never lost his hearing or had ear problems. And apart from asthma, he was otherwise fit and healthy.
Examination of his ear canals showed that he had no blockages or inflammation. However, a hearing test revealed that he had lost his left ear significantly. He was treated with steroid pills and injections, after which his hearing partially recovered.
He tested negative for other possible causes, including rheumatoid arthritis, flu, and HIV, and led his doctors to conclude that his hearing loss was linked to COVID-19 infection.
“Despite the extensive literature on COVID-19 and the various symptoms associated with the virus, there has been a lack of discussion of the relationship between COVID-19 and hearing,” the report’s authors say.
“Hearing loss and tinnitus are symptoms that have been seen but not highlighted in patients with COVID-19 and influenza virus.” The first case of hearing loss that only mentions COVID-19 was reported in April this year.
It is believed that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, is bound to a specific type of cell in the lungs. And the virus was recently found in similar cells on the middle ear as well, the report’s authors explain.
SARS-CoV-2 also creates an inflammatory response and an increase in chemicals that have been linked to hearing loss.
“This is the first reported case of sensorineural hearing loss following COVID-19 infection in the UK,” the report’s authors write. “Given the widespread population presence of the virus and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate further.”
They add, “This is especially true given the need to promptly identify and treat hearing loss and the current difficulty in accessing medical services,” they say. Doctors should ask patients in the intensive care unit about hearing loss and refer them for urgent treatment, they advise.
Hearing deterioration reported by discharged COVID-19 patients. Provided by the British Medical Journal
Quote: The first reported case of sudden permanent hearing loss in the UK related to COVID-19 (2020, October 13th) was reported on October 14th, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-uk-case-sudden -permanent-loss accessed. html
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