Millions of people around the globe have had their lives affected by this unprecedented virus, causing store closings, social distancing, and making many reevaluate the way they live their lives. As we continue to study the causes and effects of COVID-19, we begin to learn more about this mysterious virus. It seems like every day there are new developments with regard to the virus, as our collective knowledge continues to expand.
One particular area of health that has been affected by COVID-19 is a sharp increase in the number of and the severity of tinnitus cases. A recent survey conducted by Angela Ruskin University concluded that over 40% of people with tinnitus that also showed symptoms for COVID-19 felt a sharp increase in their tinnitus symptoms.
Dr. Alexandra Costlow, an audiologist at the Hearing and Balance Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, gave some insight into why this might be occurring.
“Clinically, we have seen a rise in inquiries from patients about their ears ringing during COVID-19, and I believe this increase is because of pandemic-related changes,” said Dr. Costlow.
“The reason for this uptick is multifactorial. Because we now spend so much time at home, interact with fewer people, and work remotely, there are far fewer environmental sounds to mask tinnitus. Without as many distractions, people are more aware of their surroundings, and subsequently are aware of intrinsic sounds.”
But what exactly is tinnitus? Tinnitus is characterized by hearing unwanted sounds, such as a ringing or buzzing in your ears, without a corresponding external sound. It’s one of the most frequently occurring chronic conditions, affecting 12%–30% of the adult population worldwide. Although tinnitus occurs in all age groups, it’s more common in older adults.
Numerous factors, including hearing loss, ear infections, exposure to loud noise, and head injuries, are known to be associated with developing tinnitus. It can also be made worse by certain noises, poor sleep, allergies, or infections.
COVID-19 has also caused a massive spike in stress and anxiety cases worldwide. Largely stemming from a general feeling of unpredictability, these stress factors can also worse tinnitus cases.
“Stress and poor sleep hygiene can absolutely tip the scale when it comes to developing tinnitus—it can really be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The pandemic has brought on a newfound layer of stress with the unknowns of when life will return to ‘normal,’ causing some people to struggle to fall or stay asleep. With this challenging new sleep pattern, it wouldn’t be unusual to see an increased prevalence of this condition,” said Dr. Costlow.
Tinnitus can also be an early indicator for hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of the most common medical ailments in the world, affecting over 5% of the world’s population. More common in older adults, it can be recognized by many symptoms, including a difficulty understanding speech, not knowing where particular sounds are coming from, avoiding social situations altogether, or a ringing of the ears (tinnitus).
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of hearing loss, it is important to contact a hearing professional immediately. While you might believe it may not be necessarily urgent to seek professional help regarding these symptoms, failing to do so could result in permanent damage to your hearing. It is important to get the help you need quickly to prevent further hearing loss and to quickly improve your overall quality of life.
Simply signing up for a quick hearing evaluation could have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your daily life, helping you to focus on the things in life that are important to you. Contact Hearing Associates of Las Vegas now to speaking to a hearing professional now and help make your life better.