Studies Show that COVID19 Can Affect Tinnitus

Studies Show that COVID-19 Can Affect Tinnitus

In Tinnitus by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
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Over the past year and a half the COVID-19 pandemic has altered uncountable aspects of our lives. Now, research is finding that the pandemic has also had a significant impact on tinnitus, the condition where phantom sounds are heard in the ear. 

New data shows that COVID-19 frequently worsens tinnitus for those who contracted the virus. Additionally, the conditions surrounding pandemic may have exacerbated tinnitus symptoms for many people, regardless of whether or not they contracted COVID-19. 

Lasting Effects

The lingering effects in the body of the COVID-19 virus are still being uncovered. Many COVID-19 patients, even those who were not hospitalized may experience long-term effects that drag on even after they are pronounced recovered. Roughly one-third of those with mild COVID-19 cases report lasting fatigue, brain fog, interrupted smell and taste, joint pain and lung and breathing issues. With the emergence of the new disease, understanding the permanence of these lasting effects is still being examined. 

Tinnitus may soon have a place in the list of potentially long-term COVID-19 symptoms. Looking at the outcomes of over 3,100 people internationally, research is now connecting significant worsening of tinnitus to conditions of COVID-19 infection. 

Tinnitus and COVID-19

On the bright side, in the survey to gather data, researchers found that, for the majority of COVID-19 patients, the virus had little impact on their tinnitus. Over half of the respondents, 54%, said that COVID-19 did not change how they perceived their tinnitus. 

Unfortunately however, this means that for a sizable minority COVID-19 came with changes to their tinnitus, most often for the worse. While 6% of those surveyed found that their COVID-19 cases improved their tinnitus, a whopping 40% of people noted that the viral disease significantly worsened their experience of tinnitus. This statistic can be interpreted as 2 out of every 5 people who experienced tinnitus and COVID-19 saw the pandemic infection exacerbating their tinnitus. 

Further research may determine if correlations exist between the severity of COVID-19 experienced as well as the level of existent tinnitus and the worsening of tinnitus with infection. 

Hard Conditions for Healthy Hearing

While the COVID-19 virus itself seems to have the potential for worsening our hearing, the conditions surrounding the pandemic also can make healthy hearing more difficult. Quarantining, social distancing and activity restrictions can all come with unhealthy consequences for those with hearing challenges. 

Increased isolation and loneliness were a pervasive emotional consequence of the public health necessities the pandemic brought to bear. Additionally, anxiety, financial strain and increased depression may contribute stress that in turn, can trigger worsened tinnitus. Reduced social gathering and the closure of public gyms and exercise areas made physical exercise more challenging to access, again increasing potential triggers for intrusive tinnitus.

Among research respondents, nearly one-third (32%) saw pandemic lifestyle changes as driving worsening tinnitus. A slim 1% saw their tinnitus improve during the pandemic, while around two-thirds of people with pre-existing tinnitus felt their condition remained about the same. Looked at another way, nearly one out of every three people with tinnitus saw their symptoms worsen over the past year and a half. 

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus has no absolute cure and may manifest in many different configurations. With that in mind, tinnitus is treated in a variety of different approaches. Often, the treatment of significant hearing loss that may exist alongside tinnitus will significantly reduce the intrusiveness of tinnitus noise. 

A proactive approach can also reduce flare ups of frustrating and disruptive tinnitus. Finding ways to get physical exercise, eating a balanced diet and reducing stress in your life can help make tinnitus less significant. 

It is important to remember you don’t have to handle your tinnitus alone. We can help you connect with the treatment options that work best for you. Our hearing specialists can help find the underlying causes of tinnitus and give you tools to improve your hearing health. Tinnitus caused by preventable causes such as obstructions or infections in the ear is best treated by your hearing specialist. If tinnitus is a challenge for you, it is time to talk with our team  about it. Want to take that next step right now? Contact us today!