Since the onset of COVID-19 last March, stories about the virus have dominated the news cycle. While most details such as infection rates, deaths, and celebrities who contracted the virus dominated the news, much has not been reported about the long-term effects of the virus.
Since the virus is still spreading worldwide and there hasn’t been much time to study the effects after contraction, what we know is limited at best. One ailment that has sometimes been various treatments caned as a side effect of contracting the virus is tinnitus.
Early Research on COVID 19 and Tinnitus
Though early research and anecdotal reports have documented tinnitus and sudden hearing loss in some covid-19 patients, audiologists emphasized no conclusive evidence connecting the virus to the onset or worsening of tinnitus.
The condition is “one of those things that are just so variable in every single person,” said Eldré Beukes, an audiologist at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom.
“There are at least 200 reasons why people may develop tinnitus or feel like their existing condition is worsening,” Beukes said, “including factors related to hearing damage as well as stress and mental health conditions.”
Other experts say it’s critical for people with tinnitus to understand the condition and be aware that there are various treatments that can provide relief.
What is Tinnitus?
In America, more than 50 million people experience some form of tinnitus, which is often linked to hearing loss. About 20 million Americans struggle with a chronic condition, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases.
Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that isn’t being generated by an external source; it can be pretty varied in terms of how people hear it and how people describe it.
The condition can be temporary or chronic. People most commonly report a ringing in one or both ears, but the noise can also sound like buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking.
Tinnitus often results from damage in the inner ear, said Jason Leyendecker, an audiologist and secretary of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology.
“We all have thousands of little hairs in the inner ear, and if they are damaged, they are no longer sending the signal to the brain accurately,” Leyendecker said. “So your brain picks up that there is missing information and tries to re-create it.” This may cause you to hear sounds that aren’t actually there.
In other cases, tinnitus can be triggered by exposure to medications or chemicals potentially toxic to the ear. Also, stress, anxiety, and fatigue can exacerbate tinnitus, making your brain pay more attention to the sound. This can then cause the noise to be more pronounced and distracting.
Tinnitus: A Long-Haul Symptom?
A handful of published studies and individual case reports have suggested that hearing loss and tinnitus may be a rare or potentially less frequently documented “long-haul” symptom of covid-19.
An international survey-based study examining the changes in tinnitus sufferers’ experiences during the pandemic was published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Public Health. Of the more than 3,100 people surveyed, 237 respondents reported that they had suffered coronavirus symptoms. Among that smaller group, about 40 percent said their symptoms worsened their tinnitus.
Some theories as to why this may be occurring include types of viral inflammation that can affect the inner ear and cause a tinnitus response. Another possibility is that upper respiratory infections may cause infections in the middle ear.
These infections can lead to a buildup of fluid and debris behind the eardrum. This may trap or block sound and make your ability to hear your tinnitus or start perceiving your tinnitus more manageable. This hearing may be temporary, but once a person starts hearing their tinnitus, it may be challenging to stop noticing it.
Since the onset of COVID-19, A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression.
Beyond increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, untreated tinnitus can affect almost all aspects of life.
Sufferers tend to avoid activities that they think might make their tinnitus worse, such as going out to a noisy restaurant or attending a party.
There isn’t a cure for tinnitus, but experts say there are many treatment options available for people suffering from tinnitus.
What Can You Do?
First, you should see a primary care physician or an ear, nose, and throat specialist to determine whether your tinnitus has a treatable medical cause, such as an ear infection or impacted ear wax.
Then, it’s essential to visit an audiologist who can test your hearing and help create an appropriate treatment plan. If you have hearing loss-related tinnitus, hearing aids can be an extremely effective treatment.
One of the most common methods of relieving tinnitus is sound enrichment or sound therapy.
This can be as simple as using a white noise machine, listening to music or podcasts, or leaving the television on. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychological counseling can also be helpful as well.
Additionally, people with tinnitus are encouraged to practice mindfulness and other stress-reduction strategies, including meditation, deep breathing, and exercising.
If you or a loved one believe you are suffering from tinnitus, it is crucial to contact your primary care doctor or your audiologist immediately. If left untreated, this could have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness.
If you live in the Las Vegas area, consider contact Hearing Associates of Las Vegas for all of your hearing needs.