In some cases, COVID-19 can lead to ear infections. People may get ear infections following, or as a complication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.
Middle ear infections are
While it can cause symptoms in the middle ear, COVID-19
Despite the data linking ear infections and COVID-19, some
Read more about how COVID-19 has links to ear infections, their symptoms, how to manage them, and more.
Both viral and bacterial infections can cause ear infections. SARS-CoV-2 is an example of a virus that may lead to an ear infection.
Middle ear infections
The analysis, which looked at 12 studies of individuals with the virus, found that 3.1% reported hearing loss, 4.5% had ringing in the ears, and 12.2% experienced dizziness.
Several studies documented a decrease in ear infections among children during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a
However, as this article previously notes, the data do not say anything about SARS-CoV-2’s ability to cause ear infections. People still can and do get ear infections, both from SARS-CoV-2 and other infections.
All currently identified strains of SARS-CoV-2 could potentially cause ear infections.
However, these may be skewed figures because these individuals underwent testing. Those with mild or asymptomatic infections may not have taken a test and did not have significant symptoms.
It is not possible to diagnose the SARS-CoV-2 variant a person has according to only their symptoms, and determining the variant does not determine treatment. Additionally, in both variants, an ear infection may develop later in the course of the disease
Some symptoms a person may experience with Delta include:
- breathing difficulties
- muscle aches
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Some symptoms someone might notice with Omicron include:
- sore throat
- hoarse voice
- stuffy nose
Ear infections are very common in children. Around
Children with ear infections and COVID-19 will likely have ear pain, but very young children may not be able to verbally express this pain. Signs of an ear infection to look for include:
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty nursing or taking a bottle
- changes in eating habits
- frequent crying
- increased behavior problems
- pulling at the ear
- hitting or banging the side of the head near the ear
- being clingier than usual
- running a fever
Treatment for ear infections in a person with COVID-19
Pain medication may help with the pain of both an ear infection and COVID-19. Do not use cough or cold medication in children younger than 4 years old unless a doctor recommends this.
The following are answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and ear infections.
Can I get an ear infection after contracting SARS-CoV-2?
An ear infection can follow any other infection. SARS-CoV-2 may directly cause infection in the ears, but it can also indirectly cause an infection by causing inflammation in the space around the ears. This can trap fluid, allowing bacteria to grow in the ears.
Is it an ear infection or COVID-19?
It is not possible to tell whether a person has an ear infection or COVID-19 according to their symptoms alone. An individual may also develop ear pain as their only COVID-19 symptom. Their ear pain also may linger after recovering from the disease. To know whether a person has an ear infection, COVID-19, or both, they should take a COVID-19 test.
How long do ear infections last with COVID-19?
Many ear infections improve on their own in 2–3 days. If the symptoms do not improve, a person likely needs antibiotics. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics, even if symptoms resolve. In most cases, an individual will need antibiotics for 10 days.
Will COVID-19 damage hearing?
A small portion of people with COVID-19 report trouble hearing. According to the above 2021 systematic review, 3.1% of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 during the study period reported hearing loss. However, this hearing loss is generally temporary and will resolve once a person recovers from the disease.
COVID-19 can affect the body in unpredictable ways. According to current research, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, may cause infections in the inner and middle ears in some people, leading to painful ear infections.
While ear infections sometimes get better on their own, they can also be serious if they spread and a person does not treat them. People with a fever, severe ear pain, or hearing loss should contact a doctor if symptoms do not improve in 1–2 days.