A New Study Suggests That SARS-COVID Virus Can Infect The Inner Ear
Image source: https://www.everydayhealth.com/

A recent study suggests that the coronavirus can infect cells of the inner ear. The prevalence of auditory symptoms in Covid-19 patients is unknown. However, the infection of the inner ears may be responsible for hearing and balance problems.

Many Covid-19 patients have reported symptoms affecting the ears, including hearing loss and tinnitus. Dizziness and balance problems can also occur, suggesting that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be able to infect the inner ear.

Ear Infection Due To Covid

A new study from MIT and Massachusetts Eye and Ear provides evidence that the virus can indeed infect cells of the inner ear, including hair cells. Both of these are critical for hearing and balance.

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The researchers used novel cellular models of the human inner ear and hard-to-obtain adult human inner ear tissue for their studies. The limited availability of such tissue has hindered previous studies of Covid-19 and other viruses that can cause hearing loss.

“Having the models is the first step, and this work opens a path now for working with not only SARS-CoV-2 but also other viruses that affect hearing,” says Lee Gehrke. The Hermann L.F. von Helmholtz Professor in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science co-led the study.

Image source: https://www.everydayhealth.com/

Route Of Entry

Possible routes for the virus to enter the ears include the Eustachian tube, which connects the nose to the middle ear. The virus may also be able to escape from the nose through small openings surrounding the olfactory nerves. That would allow it to enter the brain space and infect cranial nerves, including the one that connects to the inner ear.

Study Report

The pattern of infection appears to correspond to the symptoms observed in a group of 10 Covid-19 patients who reported ear-related symptoms following their condition. Nine of these patients suffered from tinnitus, six experienced vertigo, and all had mild to profound hearing loss.

All of the six Covid-19 patients in the study had reduced or absent otoacoustic emissions, suggesting hearing loss.

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This study strongly suggests that Covid-19 can cause auditory and balance problems.

Image source: https://www.reuters.com/

“Initially this was because routine testing was not readily available for patients who were diagnosed with Covid. Patients with more life-threatening complications weren’t paying much attention to whether their hearing was reduced or whether they had tinnitus,” Stankovic says.

“We still don’t know what the incidence is. However, our findings really call for increased attention to audiovestibular symptoms in people with Covid exposure.”

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