A 45-year-old British man has suffered permanent hearing loss in one ear following a severe bout of COVID-19, according to a case report.
The case marks the first in the United Kingdom where hearing loss has occurred following COVID-19, wrote the authors of the case report published in BMJ.
The man, who suffered from asthma but no other preexisting conditions, contracted the novel virus and was initially able to manage his symptoms at home. But by day 10, he experienced trouble breathing and was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit.
“He was intubated for 30 days and his admission was further complicated by bilateral pulmonary emboli, ventilator-associated pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension and anemia,” the authors wrote.
A week after receiving various treatments that included the experimental drug remdesivir, as well as intravenous steroids and blood plasma, the man improved. He was then transferred out of the intensive care unit but soon developed another health issue: “sudden onset hearing loss” that affected his left ear, the authors wrote.
“He had no previous history of hearing loss or ear pathology,” they noted.
Following a series of hearing tests, the doctors treating the man determined that inflammation was not the cause of his hearing loss. Rather, they suggest in the report, the novel virus may have damaged the nerves in his ear, leading to permanent hearing loss.
“Despite the considerable literature on COVID-19 and the various symptoms associated with the virus, there is a lack of discussion on the relationship between COVID-19 and hearing. Hearing loss and tinnitus are symptoms that have been seen in patients with both COVID-19 and influenza virus but have not been highlighted,” they wrote.
“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,” they concluded.
“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.”