Covid-19 patient suffers ‘sudden hearing loss’

A British man has suffered sudden hearing loss linked to Covid-19.

A new report has detailed how the 45-year-old, who suffered from asthma but was otherwise “fit and well”, needed intensive care treatment after being infected with coronavirus.

After a long stint in intensive care, hearing problems were picked up.

There have been five reported cases of hearing loss following a Covid-19 infection – with this the first reported in the UK.

The report, set out in detail in the journal BMJ Case Reports, details the man’s hearing loss – also known as sudden onset sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL).

Experts from University College London and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital said that sudden hearing loss can “easily be missed in an intensive care setting” as they called for medics to be aware of the rare complication.

They said that raising awareness could enable medics to give an early course of steroids which offers the best chance of recovering hearing.

The man was admitted to hospital 10 days after he started experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.

He required care on the intensive care unit and was intubated for 30 days.

The man suffered various other complications including high blood pressure, anaemia, ventilator-associated pneumonia and a blood clot.

A week after and transfer out of the intensive care unit, he noticed left-sided tinnitus and sudden onset hearing loss.

He had no previous history of hearing loss or ear problems.

A week later he was seen by ear, nose and throat specialists.

The man was treated with oral steroids for seven days which resulted in partial subjective improvement in his hearing.

He also had a small amount of steroid injected directly into the middle ear – but felt no further benefit from this treatment.

“Hearing loss and tinnitus are symptoms that have been seen in patients with both Covid-19 and influenza virus but have not been highlighted,” the authors wrote.

“In the case presented here, the patient was previously well with no other attributable cause for his SSNHL.

“Furthermore, it must be noted that the patient mentioned the difficulty acknowledging the hearing loss in the busy ITU environment and his realisation afterwards.

“Despite the low numbers of studies, it is significant to consider the possibility of a relationship between Covid-19 and SSNHL.”

They added: “This is the first reported case of sensorineural hearing loss following Covid-19 infection in the UK.

“Given the widespread presence of the virus in the population and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate this further.

“This is especially true given the need to promptly identify and treat the hearing loss and the current difficulty in accessing medical services.

“We suggest that patients are asked about hearing loss in the ITU environments when applicable, and any patient reporting acute hearing loss should be referred to otolaryngology on an emergency basis.”