It is a known fact that Covid infection causes a host of problems which affect other parts of the body, besides the respiratory system. As part of the long-Covid syndrome, many people continue to experience breathlessness, headache, loss of taste, loss of smell or decreased sense of smell, hearing loss, vertigo, dizziness, cough, stuffy nose, hearing loss, ringing in the ears and so on, weeks after the initial Covid infection.
Dr Sonali Pandit, consultant ENT, and Dr Kirti Sabnis, infectious disease specialist at Fortis Hospital Mulund say Covid infection causes ENT issues in people.
How does it happen?
Covid mainly causes distinct upper respiratory tract-related symptoms including nasal congestion, sore throat, and smell dysfunctions. It can also involve the lower respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as cough, difficulty in breathing and chest tightness.
“In most patients with mild Covid, symptoms like anosmia (absence of smell sensation), cacosmia (distorted smell perception, either with or without an odorant stimulus present), hyposmia (reduced sense of smell) are present. These symptoms can last up to a few weeks, but if patients continue to experience them beyond four weeks, they must report them to their doctors,” the doctors say.
Along with the loss of smell, many people complain about loss or a decrease in sense of taste. In a few patients, sudden onset of sensorineural hearing loss has also been reported during and post-recovery. One must also be cautious about persistent headaches and facial pain, as it can indicate a deeper problem like black fungus (mucormycosis), they warn.
According to the doctors, smell dysfunction like anosmia and hyposmia are self-limiting conditions and a majority of patients will recover within four weeks. “The reason being, Covid-19 doesn’t damage the olfactory neurons, but harms the supporting cells. Once the virus is out of the system, the supporting cells come back to normal and the sense of smell is restored. Even after weeks, if people do not get back their sense of smell, doctors recommend steroids, nasal spray, decongestant nasal spray and olfactory training that involves smell training techniques.”
For patients experiencing a sudden onset of hearing loss, they must reach out to their ENT surgeon at the earliest. The treatment line includes IV/oral steroids and injecting of steroids in the eardrum. The hearing recovery is unpredictable, but earlier diagnosis and treatment may improve the prognosis.