A man in Britain has suffered sudden hearing loss while hospitalised with COVID-19, it was reported on Tuesday, leading researchers to say it could cause permanent deafness.
Early detection of this “possible side effect” of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, is vital so that prompt treatment with steroids can reverse the “disabling condition,” The BMJ said in an emailed statement.
Though a handful of other cases of CCP virus-linked sudden onset hearing loss are known, this is the first case reported in the UK, The BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, said.
In a report in the journal “BMJ Case Reports,” doctors describe the sufferer as a 45-year-old man who was referred internally to their hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat Department while receiving in-patient treatment for the virus.
An asthma sufferer, he was admitted to hospital with persistent COVID-19 symptoms, and was then transferred to intensive care with breathing difficulties.
He was put on a ventilator for 30 days, which caused “other complications” before he improved after treatment with Remdesivir, intravenous steroids, and a blood transfusion, The BMJ said.
It was not until a week after his breathing tube was removed that the man, who had never suffered hearing problems before, noticed ringing (tinnitus) then sudden hearing loss in his left ear.
Excluding other possible medical causes for the man’s sudden hearing loss, and finding no local blockages or inflammation in his ear canals, doctors were led “to conclude that his hearing loss was associated with COVID-19 infection,” The BMJ said.
The hearing loss was confirmed by a hearing test and, after treatment with steroids, the man partly recovered his lost hearing.
A key finding in the report was that CCP virus-infected cells of similar kinds have been seen in both lung and ear tissue.
“SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, is thought to lock on to a particular type of cell lining the lungs. And the virus has also recently been found in similar cells lining the middle ear,” The BMJ said, explaining the research findings.
The report authors said hearing loss and tinnitus were known to afflict COVID-19 and influenza patients, but this had not been sufficiently highlighted, while other CCP virus-related symptoms got lots of attention.
“Given the widespread presence of the virus in the population and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate this further,” the doctors wrote.
“This is especially true given the need to promptly identify and treat the hearing loss and the current difficulty in accessing medical services,” they added.
The doctors are based at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, London, and University College London.