People who contracted Covid have gone on to develop serious auditory problems including hearing loss and tinnitus, new research has shown.
Ear problems may have affected as many as 15% of Covid sufferers, academics at the University of Manchester found.
They looked at the results of 56 studies and found a strong association between coronavirus and hearing issues and problems with the ‘vestibular system’.
This includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.
Data from 24 of the studies was pooled to estimate that the prevalence of hearing loss was 7.6%, tinnitus was 14.8% and vertigo was 7.2%.
However, the team behind the research – who followed up their review carried out a year ago – described the quality of the studies as fair.
Their data primarily used self-reported questionnaires or medical records to obtain Covid-19-related symptoms, rather than the more scientifically reliable hearing tests.
Kevin Munro, professor of audiology at The University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) hearing health lead, said: ‘There is an urgent need for a carefully conducted clinical and diagnostic study to understand the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the auditory system.
‘It is also well-known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss, little is understood about the auditory effects of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
‘Though this review provides further evidence for an association, the studies we looked at were of varying quality so more work needs to be done.’
Prof Munro is leading a year-long UK study to investigate the possible long-term impact of coronavirus on hearing among people who have been previously treated in hospital for the virus.
His team hopes to accurately estimate the number and severity of Covid-19 related hearing disorders in the UK, and discover what parts of the auditory system might be affected.
The new study, published in the International Journal of Audiology, was funded by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.
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