Is documented sudden hearing loss associated with COVID-19 infection or vaccines against it?
As compared with incidence rates before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hearing loss rates did not increase in Finland, and neither COVID-19 infection nor vaccination was associated with an increase in the overall incidence of documented hearing loss.
This study was conducted in Finland, which has a health registry for all 5.5 million residents. They excluded people with a previous diagnosis of sensorineural hearing loss. Then, they evaluated the rate of diagnoses for hearing loss after the start of the vaccination rollout. Overall rates of hearing loss dipped a little at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but then returned to the baseline (pre–COVID-19) rate when measured month-to-month. Most of the population received a messenger RNA vaccine, and almost all of these were the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) vaccine. Among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine, there was no uptick in diagnoses of hearing loss. In addition, there was no difference in rates of hearing loss with patients with a COVID-19 infection. A limitation of this study is that the authors used diagnoses of hearing loss rendered by specialists; there may be people with hearing loss who did not seek specialty care. Another study, conducted in Israel, found a small increase in hearing loss associated with this vaccine, but they also included the use of prednisone as a marker, which may have overidentified patients thought to have hearing loss.
Allen F. Shaughnessy, PharmD, MMedEd
Professor of Family Medicine