COVID-19 may be linked to hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo © Getty Images

COVID-19 may be linked to hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo

Researchers hope further studies will estimate the number and severity of COVID-19-related hearing disorders in the UK.

Hearing loss and other auditory problems may be strongly associated with coronavirus, new research suggests.

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Researchers found 56 studies that identified an association between COVID-19 and auditory and vestibular problems. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.

They pooled data from 24 of the studies to estimate that the prevalence of hearing loss was 7.6 per cent, tinnitus was 14.8 per cent and vertigo was 7.2 per cent.

Their data primarily used self-reported questionnaires or medical records to obtain COVID-19-related symptoms, rather than the more scientifically reliable hearing tests. However, the team – who followed up their review carried out a year ago – described the quality of the studies as fair.

“There is an urgent need for a carefully conducted clinical and diagnostic study to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the auditory system,” said Kevin Munro, professor of audiology at The University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) hearing health lead.

“It is also well-known that viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause hearing loss, little is understood about the auditory effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Though this review provides further evidence for an association, the studies we looked at were of varying quality so more work needs to be done.”

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Prof Munro is leading a year-long UK study to investigate the possible long-term impact of coronavirus on hearing among people who have been previously treated in hospital for the virus.

His team hopes to accurately estimate the number and severity of COVID-19-related hearing disorders in the UK, and discover what parts of the auditory system might be affected.

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The new study, published in the International Journal of Audiology, was funded by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

Can I get the coronavirus from a parcel?

It’s hypothetically possible, but parcels pose a very small risk.

A US study found that the coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard (and paper is likely to be similar). So for the parcel to be contaminated, someone with COVID-19 would have had to touch or cough on your parcel within the past day.

The chances of this are low, but common sense advice would be to wash your hands with soap and water after opening the parcel, and then again after you’ve disposed of the packaging – especially if you or anyone else in your household is in one of the vulnerable groups.

The same study found that the virus can survive for up to three days on hard, shiny surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel – which is why door handles are particularly good vectors for the virus. So, if you receive anything packaged in plastic, such as takeaway deliveries, make sure to wash your hands after touching it, and especially before eating.

We don’t yet know how long the virus can survive on smartphone screens, but it’s likely to be up to three days. This means that you should ideally clean your phone with disinfectant wipes (Apple recommends 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipes), at least once a day.

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