While COVID-19 symptoms impact rhinology (anosmia) and laryngology (airways), two major disciplines of the otolaryngology armamentarium, the virus has seemed to spare the auditory system. A recent study, however, reported changes in otoacoustic emission (OAE) signals measured in SARS-COV-2 positive patients. We sought to assess the effect of COVID-19 infection on auditory performance in a cohort of recovered SARS-COV-2 patients and controls. To avoid a potential bias of previous audiological dysfunction not related to SARS-COV-2 infection, the study encompasses patients with normal auditory history. We hypothesized that if SARS-COV-2 infection predisposes to hearing loss, we would observe subtle and early audiometric deficits in our cohort in the form of subclinical auditory changes.
Tertiary referral center.
The Institutional Review Board approved the study and we recruited participants who had been positive for SARS-COV-2 infection, according to an Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test on two nasopharyngeal swabs. The patients included in this study were asymptomatic for the SARS-COV-2 infection and were evaluated following recovery, confirmed by repeated swab testing. The control group comprised healthy individuals matched for age and sex, and with a normal auditory and otologic history.
The eligibility to participate in this study included a normal audiogram, no previous auditory symptoms, normal otoscopy examination with an intact tympanic membrane, and bilateral tympanometry type A. None of our volunteers reported any new auditory symptoms following SARS-COV-2 infection. Ototacoustic emissions (OAE) and auditory brainstem response (ABR) measurements were used to evaluate the auditory function.
Main Outcome Measure(s):
OAE and ABR measurements.
We have found no significant differences between recovered asymptomatic SARS-COV-2 patients and controls in any of transitory evoked otoacoustic emission (TEOAE), distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), or ABR responses.
There is no cochlear dysfunction represented by ABR, TEOAE, and DPOAE responses in recovered COVID-19 asymptomatic patients. Retrocochlear function was also preserved as evident by the ABR responses. A long-term evaluation of a larger cohort of SARS-COV-2 patients will help to identify a possible contribution of SARS-COV-2 infection to recently published anecdotal auditory symptoms associated with COVID-19.