How can Covid-19 affect hearing and result in blocked ears

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Over the past few years, the global medical community has faced distinct hurdles due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Insights and breakthroughs concerning the virus have consistently progressed, encompassing the range of symptoms experienced by infected individuals. Apart from the typical signs like fever, cough, and respiratory issues, there have been documented impacts on sensory faculties such as taste, smell, and potentially even hearing. This article delves into the repercussions of Covid-19 on auditory health such as blocked ears and ear pain.

Can covid affect your ears?

The typical symptoms of Covid-19, such as fever, cough, and exhaustion, are widely recognized. However, what receives less attention is the potential impact of the virus on ear health. Recent investigations indicate a correlation between the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and ear discomfort, notably ear pain, ringing, and occasionally, balance issues.

Although hearing difficulties are not frequently reported among Covid-infected individuals, recent research suggests that ear pain and heightened pressure in the ears could be indicative of Covid-19, and other ear-related conditions might be linked to the onset of the virus.

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Covid-19: blocked ears and other conditions

Covid-19 can potentially cause blocked ears as a result of various factors related to the virus's impact on the respiratory system. Here are some ways in which Covid-19 may contribute to blocked ears, as well as other conditions that can also lead to this symptom: 

1. Stuffy nose and clogged ears


Stuffy nose and clogged ears are common symptoms experienced by some individuals with Covid-19. The virus can cause inflammation in the nasal passages and the Eustachian tube, leading to congestion and a feeling of fullness or blockage in the ears. This congestion can result in symptoms such as a runny nose, as well as ear pressure or ringing in the ears

2. Sore throat and ear pain on one side


Sore throat and ear pain on one side can indeed be symptoms of Covid-19. While sore throat is a relatively common symptom of various respiratory infections, including Covid-19, ear pain on one side can sometimes accompany it in Covid-19 cases. This pain may be due to inflammation or irritation of the ear canal or Eustachian tube caused by the virus.

3. Ear and jaw pain on one side


Ear and jaw pain on one side can occur in some individuals with Covid-19. This pain may result from inflammation or nerve irritation caused by the virus. However, ear and jaw pain on one side can also be caused by other conditions unrelated to Covid-19, such as dental problems, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, or ear infections. 

4. Covid-19 and ear infections


While Covid-19 primarily affects the respiratory system, it can also lead to secondary complications such as ear infections. Ear infections, also known as otitis, can occur when the virus affects the upper respiratory tract and leads to inflammation or congestion in the Eustachian tube or the middle ear.

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5. Itchy throat and ears

Itchy throat and ears can potentially be symptoms of Covid-19. While not as commonly discussed as other symptoms like fever or cough, Covid-19 can manifest with various respiratory and sensory symptoms, including throat and ear discomfort. Itchy throat may result from irritation of the throat lining due to inflammation caused by the virus. Similarly, itchiness in the ears could be a result of inflammation or irritation of the ear canal or surrounding tissues.

Can blocked ears happen after Covid-19?

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Yes, blocked ears can occur after Covid-19 infection. Covid-19 can lead to various respiratory symptoms and complications, including inflammation and congestion in the nasal passages and Eustachian tube. This congestion can result in a feeling of fullness or blockage in the ears.

Additionally, Covid-19 can sometimes lead to secondary infections, such as sinusitis or otitis media, which can further contribute to ear blockage. It's essential to seek medical advice if you experience persistent or severe symptoms, including blocked ears, after recovering from Covid-19, as appropriate treatment may be necessary to alleviate discomfort and prevent complications.

Blocked ears caused by Covid-19: treatment

Doctor conducting patient's hearing level test

Treatment for blocked ears caused by Covid-19 typically involves addressing the underlying cause while managing symptoms to alleviate discomfort. Here are some approaches commonly used:

  • Decongestants: Over-the-counter decongestants can help reduce swelling and congestion in the Eustachian tube, which may alleviate blocked ears.
  • Nasal corticosteroids: These medications can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and Eustachian tube, promoting better airflow and relieving ear blockage.
  • Nasal saline irrigation: Using a saline solution to flush out the nasal passages can help clear congestion and improve Eustachian tube function.
  • Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection is suspected or confirmed, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection and alleviate symptoms.
  • Autoinflation: Techniques such as the Valsalva maneuver or using specialized devices for autoinflation can help equalize pressure in the middle ear and relieve ear blockage.
  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated can help thin mucus and improve Eustachian tube function, potentially reducing ear blockage.

It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any treatment regimen, especially if you suspect that your symptoms are related to Covid-19. 

What are the typical symptoms of Covid-19?

The typical symptoms of a Covid-19 infection are:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle soreness
  • Runny nose and throat irritation

Often, the initial warning sign is a fever, exceeding 37.5°C, persisting even with antipyretic medication. Subsequently, dry cough and breathing difficulties become prominent symptoms. As the illness progresses, loss of taste (ageusia) or altered taste perception (dysgeusia), and loss of smell (anosmia) are frequently reported. In cases where the Coronavirus affects the upper airways, otitis media can occur. This involves inflammation and potential obstruction of the Eustachian tube, leading to ear-related issues like otitis media. Although this is not a common occurrence, it may be associated with the Coronavirus.

FAQs about Covid-19 and ear pain

How long do Covid-19 and ear discomforts last?

The duration of ear symptoms related to Covid-19 can vary widely among individuals. For some people, ear symptoms may resolve relatively quickly, while for others, they may persist for a longer period of time. Additionally, the severity of the symptoms and any underlying conditions can also influence how long they last. In general, if ear symptoms are directly related to a Covid-19 infection, they may improve as the viral infection resolves. However, if secondary complications such as ear infections or persistent inflammation occur, the duration of ear symptoms may be prolonged.

Can Covid-19 cause ear drainage?

Ear drainage like ear bleeding is not commonly reported as a symptom of Covid-19.  However, in some cases, especially if a secondary infection develops, such as otitis media (middle ear infection), ear drainage may occur. If you experience ear drainage along with other symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, it's essential to seek medical advice for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Does Covid-19 cause hearing loss in one ear?

While hearing loss is not commonly reported as a primary symptom of Covid-19, there have been anecdotal reports and some studies suggesting a potential association between Covid-19 and hearing-related issues, including hearing loss in one ear. However, the exact mechanisms through which Covid-19 might lead to hearing loss are not fully understood. There have been cases where individuals infected with Covid-19 have reported sudden or temporary hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or other auditory symptoms. Some researchers speculate that these symptoms could be related to inflammation or damage to the auditory nerve or other structures in the ear caused by the virus. However, further research is needed to establish a definitive link between Covid-19 and hearing loss.

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