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COVID-19 can infect your inner ear cells, new research says

Experts found that COVID-19 can lead to ear infections and ear-related symptoms

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Mark McComb is tested for COVID-19.

Mark McComb is tested for COVID-19 at the Mount Olympus Senior Center parking lot in Millcreek on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. An inner ear infection may cause COVID-19 symptoms with hearing and your balance, according to new research.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

An inner ear infection may cause COVID-19 symptoms with hearing and your balance, according to new research.

Researchers said in a new study — published in the medical journal Nature Communications Medicine — that reviewing inner ear tissue and cellular models helped them find out that inner ear cells have “molecular machinery to allow SARS-CoV-2 entry.”

Inner ear infection can cause COVID-19 symptoms such as hearing problems and balance, which may lead to dizziness, the researchers said.

  • “Our findings suggest that inner ear infection may be a significant cause of COVID-19-associated problems with hearing and balance,” they wrote.

Konstantina Stankovic, a former Harvard Medical School associate professor who co-led the study, told MIT News that the coronavirus could enter the brain space and infect nerves, including the ones that can connect to ears.

Similarly, Yuri Agrawal, a professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told MIT News that the study shows, overall, that COVID-19 can infect the ear.

  • “This article provides very compelling evidence that Sars-CoV-2 infects the inner ear, and may be causally related to the hearing and balance symptoms in a number of patients with Covid-19 infection,” Agrawal said. “Another exciting advance for our field is the use of 2D and 3D in vitro organoids to observe Sars-CoV-2 infection of the inner ear. This provides a powerful platform to study the impact of a number of other exposures, including other infections, toxins, and cancers, on the inner ear.”

Researchers have been studying how COVID-19 can infect the ear for months. Multiple doctors told WFLA, an affiliate of NBC, over the summer that their COVID-19 patients had reported earaches.

  • “People are coming in believing they have a run-of-the-mill earache or ear infection, but then end up testing positive for COVID,” per Yahoo Life.

Hearing loss has been mentioned as a potential symptom of COVID-19 as well.