While the world may be opening back up and we can once again attend birthday parties at Urban Air Adventure Park, that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. In fact, some people who were infected with COVID-19 weeks or months ago are still affected by symptoms. These people are known as COVID ‘long-haulers.’ Long-haulers may experience symptoms such as fatigue, memory problems, joint problems and even inner ear problems. We review how COVID-19 affects the inner ear below.
Overview of the Inner Ear
The inner ear contains both the cochlea, which helps us hear, and the semicircular canals, which help us balance.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and lined with tiny hair cells called stereocilia. As soundwaves pass through the ear, these cells convert them into electrical impulses that travel via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound.
The semicircular canals are also filled with fluid and lined with hair cells that tell your brain about your body’s movements. There are three sets of semicircular canals: one detects up/down movements, one detects side-to-side movements and one detects tilting movements.
How COVID-19 Affects the Inner Ear
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, the COVID-19 virus likely travels to the inner ear via the nose. She thinks it’s unlikely that it gets there by passing through the outer ears.
Why This Link Wasn’t Established Sooner
Stankovic explains, “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 to Do If You’re Experiencing Inner Ear Problems
If you’ve been infected with the coronavirus and are experiencing inner ear problems such as hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or dizziness, it’s important to schedule an appointment with an audiologist right away. They can evaluate and treat any inner ear problem you may be experiencing.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Augusta - Aiken ENT & Allergy today.