If it seems that the number of symptoms and side effects of COVID-19 keeps growing and growing, that’s because they are. As time goes on and experts learn more and more about the novel coronavirus, the CDC updates their lists. 

Perhaps one side effect of the virus that should be added is hearing loss. 

One day in late June, a mom named Meredith Harrell had a friend over for a visit. For the most part, they stayed outside. The friend found out a few days later that he had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Harrell and her whole family got tested. They all had COVID-19. Harrell’s husband felt tightness in his chest for a couple days, but that was his only symptom. Harrells children were completely asymptomatic.

Harrell didn’t notice any symptoms of the novel coronavirus after her friend’s visit. She felt completely healthy. Then, one day in July, as she was walking into her house, she heard a ringing in her right ear. Then, she realized that besides the ringing sound she couldn’t hear anything else out of that ear. She described it as if “someone flipped a switch.” It was after her hearing loss that she found out she had tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Matthew Stewart is an associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Stewart says that hearing loss is actually somewhat common among people who are infected with COVID-19. “We’re hearing more and more that people have hearing loss as part of their COVID infection.”

Stewart and his colleagues looked at the cadavers of three people who died from COVID-19, and in two out of the three, they found the virus in the middle ear as well as the mastoid bone, a skull bone that is located just behind the ear. 

Other viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis have been known to cause hearing loss. Stewart believes that COVID-19 might be even worse.

A study out of Manchester, England, points to evidence that ringing in the ears or hearing loss is common as well. In the study, 8 weeks after being discharged from the hospital, 138 former COVID-19 patients were asked if they noticed any ringing in their ears, and 13% responded “yes.”

Kevin Munro is an audiological scientist who co-authored the study. He explained why this ringing and hearing loss may be common. “The capillaries in the inner ear are the smallest in the human body, so it wouldn’t take much to block them.”

Does it surprise you that COVID-19 sometimes causes hearing loss?