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Can COVID-19 Cause Hearing Loss?

While none of us were familiar with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year, we have all certainly heard plenty about it by now. And although the news stories about the novel coronavirus have not seemed to slow down in the past six months, there is still much about this virus that is unknown. What has been established, however, is that COVID-19 presents in many different ways with many different symptoms.
Although many symptoms of COVID-19 are respiratory in nature, not all of them are. As we are learning more about this virus and the way it affects our bodies, there is one question that has appeared among both the general population and the medical science community: Can COVID-19 cause hearing loss? And if so, should people be on the lookout for hearing loss as a symptom of the virus?
First, it is important to remember that, as noted, we do not know everything about this virus yet. Our knowledge about COVID-19 continues to grow, and further studies may change some of the information shared here.
That being said, there is some evidence that COVID-19 can cause neurological symptoms as well as respiratory ones. In a study of 214 coronavirus patients, 36.4 percent reported symptoms of neurological manifestations that involved the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and skeletal system. Furthermore, initial research indicates that the virus may cause damage to the sensitive hearing organs of the inner ear.
Another study of 120 COVID-19 patients surveyed whether they noticed any changes in their hearing. 13 percent responded that their hearing was worse. Eight patients reported that their hearing ability had deteriorated, while eight patients said that they had tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Currently, there is little scientific evidence regarding whether coronavirus can lead to tinnitus. However, people who struggle with depression, anxiety, stress, or isolation may be at greater risk for chronic tinnitus. Unfortunately, stress, depression, and anxiety have all run high in recent months as people have worried about contracting the virus and have isolated themselves in their homes. These factors may cause a rise in cases of tinnitus.
Ototoxicity is another potential hazard. Ototoxicity is damage to the ear and hearing ability due to exposure to certain drugs or chemicals. Some vaccines are known to carry the risk of ototoxicity. As a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is still in the development phases, it is possible that the vaccine may pose a risk for ototoxicity.
Although little published evidence is currently available regarding the connection between hearing loss and COVID-19, it is never wasted to pay attention to your hearing ability. If you feel that your hearing ability has changed or deteriorated, seek the help of a hearing professional. If you notice any known symptoms of COVID-19, you should speak with a medical professional and consider being tested for the virus. Telemedicine and curbside services are available in many areas to limit your contact with other people and thus minimize the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.
If you would like to learn more about the possible connection between COVID-19 and hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to care for you.

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The Challenges of Distance Learning with Hearing Loss

For children around the United States, late August and early September are associated with one thing: going back to school. While this is still true in 2020, “going back to school” may not involve returning to a school building at all. Many parents have had to make a difficult choice whether to send their children back to in-person learning or to utilize distance learning. In some areas, in-person learning is not yet an option, meaning that all children enrolled in certain schools are using distance learning.
While distance learning is a new and sometimes challenging adventure for all school-age children, it can present unique difficulties for children with hearing loss. Many children with hearing loss have already had to navigate the difficulties of attending school and listening to their teacher and classmates. Now, they are being asked to adapt to yet another way of learning and communicating.
Whereas your child may have previously asked their teacher to speak into a small microphone that would stream to your child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant, they will now need to find a new way to better hear and listen to their teacher’s instruction. Fortunately, many tools and technologies are available to help with this transition.
If you have a child with hearing loss, you can be reassured that distance learning can be just as effective for your child as in-person learning. Here are some tips to help you and your child make the most of distance learning and come out a success:

  • Minimize background noise.

For some children, the background noise involved in distance learning may be much less than what they dealt with on a normal day at school. They are likely no longer hearing the rustling papers, squeaking chairs, and general bustle of other children. Distance learning may allow them to better isolate the sound of their teacher’s voice.
Be sure that the background noise in your home learning environment is kept to a minimum. Close windows and doors, move your child’s learning station away from noisy appliances like the dishwasher, TV, or washing machine, and ensure that other people’s conversation is kept to a minimum during distance learning times.

  • Ask your child’s teacher to help.

While you should do all you can on your end—including minimizing background noise at home and ensuring that your child’s equipment is working properly—your child’s teacher can also take simple steps to make distance learning easier for your child.
These can be as easy as making sure that only one person speaks at a time, using technology (like Google Meet) that offers real-time captioning, and sending written follow-ups that outline what was discussed and what is expected.

  • Make the most of assistive technology.

If your child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant is equipped with Bluetooth technology, use it! You can likely stream your child’s distance learning class directly to their device, which can help them hear and understand more clearly.
Remote learning is certainly not without challenges, but it can be navigated with the help of teachers, parents, and technology. To learn more about how you can help your child with hearing loss succeed in school, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today.