A mother-of-two lost her hearing in one ear and will have to get a hearing aid after suffering a mild COVID-19 infection in which she had no other symptoms.
Meredith Harrell, 42, noticed that one ear began ringing and she could hear nothing else in it while at home in July.
When she had a positive coronavirus test the next week, a doctor explained it was likely the reason for her loss of hearing.
It comes as experts fear that COVID-19 is more likely than other viruses to cause hearing loss in patients.
Small studies have found a link between COVID-19 and hearing loss as more coronavirus patients begin to report it as a rare symptom. Pictured, a woman undergoes a coronavirus test
‘It was like someone flipped a switch,’ Harrell told CNN of her sudden loss of hearing.
Her family all tested positive for coronavirus but she was the only one whose hearing was affected. Her husband experienced a tight chest for a few days and her children, aged 9 and 10, had no symptoms.
She believes they were infected by a friend they met outside in June.
Harrell is still experiencing tinnitus in her ear and doctors believe that the hearing may never come back, despite steroid treatments helping with other coronavirus patients who have experienced hearing loss.
She is now planning to get fitted with a hearing aid.
‘I wasn’t sick, but I still had consequences,’ she said. ‘I hope people get the message that this is no joke.’
Twenty-three-year-old student Liam could be treated with steroids.
He told CNN that he lost 70-80 percent of the hearing in his left ear after a COVID-19 infection that had already left him with a fever, headache and exhaustion for weeks.
While the steroids helped get much of the hearing back, the ringing in his ear continues and doctors say it may never go away. He can also still not hear high tones after the first round of the treatment.
It’s well known that coronavirus can travel deep in the body, infecting the nose, throat and lungs.
Yet small studies have suggested that it may also affect the ears, although no widespread statistics are available.
‘We’re hearing more and more that people have hearing loss as part of their Covid infection,’ Dr. Matthew Stewart, associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told CNN.
Some experts now believe hearing loss may be a rare symptom of coronavirus. Pictured, a medical professional administers a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing site
It was only in July that research discovered it in the ears and suggested that hearing loss could be a rare symptom of the virus.
For the study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, the team looked at three patients who died of COVID-19.
One of the patients was a man in his 60s, the second a woman in her 60s and the third was a woman in her 80s.
Specimens were taken using swabs and stored in a solution called viral transport media before being tested.
Dr. Matthew Stewart, associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who led a study in July on the links between coronavirus and hearing loss
Two of the three patients tested positive for the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, in the mastoid or middle ear.
The woman in her 80s had the virus only in the right middle ear. The man in his 60s had the virus in his left and right mastoids and in his left and right middle ears.
The team, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says the findings suggest that clinicians look in the ears for people who present with coronavirus symptoms, and that surgeons swab the ears before performing otology procedures.
This was not the first time that coronavirus has been linked to ear infections or ear issues.
An April 2020 study found COVID-19 induced in adults acute otitis media, a type of ear infection in which the area behind the eardrum becomes inflamed and infected.
Another study on 20 symptomless patients, with no history of hearing problems found that hearing abilities worsened after the infection had passed
The team recommended that people be screened for COVID-19 in the ear before undergoing middle ear procedures.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine looked at three patients who tested positive for coronavirus before their deaths to see effects on their ears (above)
‘Identification of live virus from middle ear effusions would have implications for surgeons and staff who handle equipment such as instruments, suction tubing, and suction canisters due to current CDC biosafety recommendations,’ the authors wrote.
‘Finally, mastoid and middle ear colonization with SARS-CoV-2 does not necessarily imply current or future otologic symptomatology.’
Another team in Manchester , England, found that 13 percent of coronavirus patients they questioned eight weeks after they’d been discharged from the hospital said they’d experienced hearing changes or ringing in their ears.
They are planning larger studies to try and confirm a link.
‘The capillaries in the inner ear are the smallest in the human body, so it wouldn’t take much to block them,’ said Kevin Munro, an audiological scientist who co-authored the study in Manchester.
And as early as March, an American woman who contracted Covid-19 in Italy warned the virus made her go deaf.
Julia Buscaglia, 20, told in terrifying detail how she had symptoms differing from those the Centers for Disease Control had warned about.
Julia told followers on Twitter she ‘woke up in agony’ on February 29, adding: ‘My head was pounding, my ears throbbing, and it felt as if my throat was on fire. My body ached, I had chills, and I had a fever of 100.2. I took over the counter anti-inflammatories and stayed in bed the entire day.’
She explained how saw a doctor the following day who told her she had a cold. She said: ‘At this point, I had begun to lose hearing in my left ear, I figured it was congestion. Still I had NO cough.’
In her harrowing personal account Julia told how her hearing became ‘significantly less’.
Julia Buscaglia, 20, told in terrifying detail how she had symptoms differing from those the Centers for Disease Control had warned about and how she lost hearing on one ear
By March 3, her last day in Italy, Julia said she ‘still couldn’t hear’, adding: ‘At this point I lost all ability to taste and smell, yet I did not have a runny nose or cough.
‘I had a headache constantly during the day which I just treated with Tylenol. I left the next morning to return to America.’
By March 5 she was back in the US and in self quarantine, where she returned to health and her hearing came back.
In the US, there are more than 7.6million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 213,000 deaths.