Apart from the common symptoms like cough, cold, fatigue and sore throat, some COVID-19 patients are also reporting ringing in ears or hearing loss while battling the disease or weeks after it. According to experts, the condition is known as COVID ear and people suffering from it suffer from symptoms like earache, vertigo, ringing or tinnitus and also hearing loss.
The investigations conducted in 2021 at the University of Buffalo in New York and the Harvard Medical School’s Eye and Ear Institute in Boston documented and cast enough light to prove the virus’s effect on middle and inner ear cells.
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“Although there is no literature yet to prove the incidence and prevalence of ‘COVID ear’ in patients suffering from the Omicron variant, but it is estimated that the incidence can range from 8% to 15% in adults with COVID-19 test positive,” Consultant Physician and Infectious Disease Specialist Head of AmeriHealth at Asian Hospital in Faridabad, Dr Charu Dutt Arora said.
Tinnitus, a common problem in older adults caused by age-related hearing loss, an ear injury, or a circulatory system problem, could be the origin of the ringing, buzzing, or choking sensation in the ear. It’s possible that the ringing in your ear is constant or that it comes and goes. It can be extremely upsetting, resulting in symptoms such as anxiety, hypertension, vertigo, sleeplessness, and hearing loss.
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“After the second wave of COVID-19, there was an increased incidence of such complaints in approximately 6% of the OPD patients post recovery, predominantly in the age group of 40 years and above,” says Dr Dutt.
Although the link between this symptom and the virus is uncertain, investigations have demonstrated that the cochlear cells, hair cells, and Schwann cells of the ear express similar receptors that bind to the COVID-19 virus’s binding proteins.
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“Since the virus is known to cause inflammation and damage to the vascular system and anatomical structures, a similar mechanism plays a major role in the middle and inner ear that results in these constant buzzing sounds,” says the expert.
“One must consult their COVID care doctor or ENT specialist to discuss this problem. Multiple modalities such as counselling, deep breathing exercises, vasodilation and steroid therapy can be of help in such patients,” she adds.