Coronavirus: British patient suffers sudden irreversible hearing loss

Man, 45, suffered rare complication after a month in intensive care with Covid-19 

Doctors at University College London’s Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital have raised awareness about a possible link between coronavirus and hearing loss
Doctors at University College London’s Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital have raised awareness about a possible link between coronavirus and hearing loss

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

Doctors said the 45-year-old had been otherwise “fit and well”, apart from having asthma, before being admitted to hospital in London for treatment for coronavirus.

The patient reported hearing loss and tinnitus in his left ear a week after spending 30 days in intensive care. The man received treatment with steroids but the problems only partially improved.

Medics said the hearing loss were “most likely” caused by Covid-19 but it is unclear how.

The rare complication has been documented in only four other coronavirus patients, none of them in the UK.

Doctors who treated the man at University College London’s Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital suggested Covid-19 patients should be screened for hearing loss following hospital treatment.

“Being aware and screening for [sudden onset hearing loss] following Covid-19 enables an early course of steroids, which offers the best chance of recovering hearing,” they wrote in BMJ Case Reports.

The British man was admitted to hospital after 10 days of Covid-19 symptoms. He was transferred to intensive care and intubated for 30 days, and subsequently developed complications including a lung blood clot, ventilator-associated pneumonia, high blood pressure and pneumonia.

His condition improved following treatment with the antiviral drug remdesivir, intravenous steroids, and blood plasma exchange.  

The patient noticed the hearing problems a week after being transferred out of intensive care. He had no previous history of hearing loss.

Doctors gave the man a seven-day course of oral steroids which resulted in partial improvement in his hearing. He subsequently received three steroid injections directly into his ear which caused no further improvement.

Physical examination and imaging excluded any other cause than Covid-19, according to the case report.

"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 doctors wrote.

"Despite the low numbers of studies, it is significant to consider the possibility of a relationship between Covid-19 and [sudden onset hearing loss]."

They suggested cell stress caused by inflammation as a possible cause.    

The authors added: "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."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in