According to Statista, nearly 63 million working-age individuals have experienced a COVID-19 infection. Survivors of COVID-19 who have persistent medical issues are often referred to as “long-haulers,” or those having “Long COVID,” while those with delayed medical issues related to past COVID-19 infection are often discussed as having “COVID-19 Syndrome.”
Among other systems in the body that can be affected by COVID-19 such as the respiratory system, many organ systems, and more, the auditory (hearing) and vestibular (balance) systems can also take a beating.
The most common COVID-related effects in the auditory and vestibular systems are tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, and dizziness.
A recent meta-analysis of literature related to this topic showed a roughly 3.10% incidence rate of hearing loss related to COVID-19 infection.
If that incidence rate is applied to individuals who are in the workforce age range and have had a known COVID-19 infection, that would equate to nearly 2 million individuals. While there is a known association between COVID-19 infection and tinnitus, the incidence rate is not as clear.
Individuals with tinnitus were greatly affected by the pandemic, even those without known COVID-19 infection. In fact, a survey study of 3,103 individuals with tinnitus that sought to assess the emotional impact of COVID-19 on tinnitus severity, found that 42% of respondents had an exacerbation of their tinnitus due to the emotional effects of the pandemic.
Another effect of Long COVID is “brain fog.” Though brain fog is not a medical term, it is used as an umbrella term for mild cognitive impairments caused by COVID-19 infection. Individuals who experience brain fog often have difficulty with focus, memory, following conversations, poor listening skills, and more. It is thought that acquired auditory processing disorder could be part of post-COVID brain fog, but more research is needed in this area.
The incidence rate of chronic brain fog after a confirmed COVID-19 infection is currently thought to be about 7%. If that incidence rate is applied to working-age individuals who have had COVID-19, the numbers are staggering at over 4 million affected individuals. Even without current evidence-based confirmation of auditory processing disorder is a result of COVID-19 infection, it is clear that auditory centers of the brain can be, and are, affected.
Though researchers are still collecting data on the true effects of COVID-19 infection on the auditory, vestibular, and neurologic systems of the body, one thing is clear: Audiologists play an important role for those who have had a COVID-19 infection. Whether through routine hearing screenings and follow-ups, fitting of amplification devices, or management of disorders, audiologists are the only professionals trained to help in this arena.
Tuned is the leading platform to connect individuals with audiologists to help them maintain, or regain, their quality of life through expert audiologic care.