The patient, who had no preexisting conditions other than asthma, developed a severe case of COVID-19

By Julie Mazziotta
October 14, 2020 12:03 PM
Advertisement
Getty

In a rare complication, a 45-year-old British man has permanently lost his hearing after contracting COVID-19, marking the first known case of hearing loss tied to the virus in the U.K.

The patient, who had no preexisting complications other than asthma, was initially able to treat his COVID-19 symptoms at home after contracting the virus. But 10 days in, he began having trouble breathing and went to the hospital, where he was put on a ventilator. He stayed on the ventilator for 30 days, and developed several complications — pneumonia, hypertension, blood clots and anemia.

Doctors treated him with the drug remdesivir, gave him steroids and a plasma infusion, which helped him improve enough to breathe without the ventilator. But soon after he was extubated from the ventilator, the patient noticed that he could not hear out of his left ear.

Despite no previous hearing trouble, doctors confirmed that the man had permanently lost his hearing in his left ear. Hearing tests determined that it was not caused by inflammation, and one theory is that COVID-19 damaged the nerves in his ear.

RELATED VIDEO: Amanda Kloots, Widow of Nick Cordero, Calls Trump ‘Disgraceful’ for Minimizing Deadly Coronavirus

While rare, this case signals a need for more research into COVID-19-related hearing loss, researchers said in a report on this case published in the journal BMJ.

“Given the widespread presence of the virus in the population and the significant morbidity of hearing loss, it is important to investigate this further,” they wrote.

There are two small, earlier studies into hearing loss after COVID-19 illness. One, from a team in Manchester, England, surveyed 138 people eight weeks after they were discharged from the hospital for COVID-19, and found that 13 percent had hearing changes or ringing in their ears.

Another, published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology, found that two out of three people who had died from COVID-19 had traces of the virus in their ears.

One of the researchers on the study, Dr. Matthew Stewart, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that other viruses do occasionally cause hearing loss, but that he believes COVID-19 “has the potential to be worse.” That’s because severe cases of the virus can lead to blood clots all over the body, and they could occur in the “extremely small blood vessels” in the inner ear, he told CNN.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the  WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.