Tinnitus and COVID-19 Connection Explained by Experts

As researchers continue to unravel the myriad health problems people face after having COVID-19, tinnitus and hearing loss emerge as potential bothersome symptoms for some.

Tinnitus, marked by a buzzing, buzzing, or hissing sound in one or both ears, in particular, made headlines when the CEO of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, Kent Taylor, recently died by suicide after suffering post-COVID symptoms, including severe tinnitus. There is also new research published in the International Journal of Audiology, which analyzed data from 24 different studies and found an association between COVID-19 and hearing problems. Researchers estimated that nearly 15 percent of those infected with COVID experienced tinnitus, nearly 8 percent reported hearing loss, and more than 7 percent developed rotational vertigo, making patients feel dizzy as if they were in. a merry-go-round.

Study co-author Kevin Munro, Ph.D., professor of audiology at the University of Manchester in the UK, tells Yahoo Life that the study shows that “the long-term health consequences of COVID could be quite significant. broad and extend well beyond a respiratory illness. “While Munro notes that” we need a definitive study to confirm “the research findings, he says this is the” best estimate of the prevalence “of hearing problems after having COVID- 19.

However, Deyanira González, an audiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life that tinnitus and hearing loss directly associated with COVID-19 have been “rare,” although developing hearing problems after certain diseases, such as measles, mumps and meningitis, it is not. unheard. “Many viral infections can cause auditory symptoms such as hearing loss and tinnitus,” says González. “However, our understanding of the relationship between viral infections like COVID-19 and the auditory system has been evolving. At this point, it is unclear to what extent hearing loss and tinnitus are a direct result of COVID-19. “

González explains that “patients who come to our office reporting tinnitus and hearing loss in association with COVID-19 have expressed considerable variability in the severity of their tinnitus or in the duration after it was noticed. In our experience, not all people who have contracted COVID-19 have reported hearing loss or tinnitus, so it has been difficult to determine whether these symptoms were actually the result of COVID-19 or other factors. “

How COVID-19 Could Affect Hearing

Patients with COVD-19 can develop tinnitus or other auditory symptoms due to “dysregulation of the immune system due to the entry of the virus into the neural pathways,” says González, while Munro explains that “some viruses damage the delicate sensory cells of hearing and / or auditory nerve. “Munro adds:” For some people, it may not be damage caused by the virus, but rather related to other factors, such as lifestyle changes. “

The length of time that COVID patients experience tinnitus also varies. “Some have reported that tinnitus is short-lived although it is symptomatic, [and] others have reported weeks to months of tinnitus after COVID-19, ”says González. However, González points out that not all people with COVID-19 experience tinnitus, and “it can be difficult to determine if the tinnitus was really the result of COVID-19 or other factors, such as existing hearing loss, exposure to noise, fluid from the middle ear, etc. Due to these other factors, the research data has failed to truly identify COVID-19 as a factor that can cause permanent tinnitus. “

It’s worth noting that tinnitus itself is “incredibly common,” Dr. Maura Cosetti, director of the Cochlear Implant Center at Mount Sinai’s New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, tells Yahoo Life. about 50 million Americans. So it’s also possible that the patients had some underlying hearing loss, and “COVID is perhaps an exacerbation of that,” Cosetti says.

Bthe best treatment options for tinnitus and hearing loss

If you are dealing with tinnitus or hearing loss, whether you are infected with COVID-19 or not, the first step is to be evaluated by a doctor. That’s because “simple things can also cause tinnitus, like a buildup of earwax,” says Cosetti. “Getting an evaluation can be helpful because there are some cases where wax gets into your ears from headphones” that many of us use during the day on video calls for work or school. Or there may be a structural abnormality in the ear. “Get an ear exam to make sure it’s not an immediately identifiable cause,” suggests Cosetti.

The next step is to get a hearing test. “Most people don’t experience hearing loss like hearing loss,” says Cosetti. “They feel that something is blocking their ear or they experience tinnitus, which is the result of damage to the inner ear. Some of those cells in the auditory nerve are setting off a kind of alarm bell: they are failing. That is often the experience of hearing loss. You may not be experiencing ‘hearing loss’ per say. “

Other factors that can cause tinnitus include exposure to noise, middle ear infections, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) or certain medications, explains González. “If there is a sudden onset of tinnitus or hearing loss, it is highly recommended to consult an otolaryngologist, as steroid treatment may be appropriate,” says González.

Cosetti notes that there is a link between tinnitus and depression and anxiety, and says “there is good evidence” that treating depression and anxiety can help the hearing problem. Along with retraining therapy for tinnitus, most tinnitus treatments involve cognitive behavioral therapy, which “focuses on reducing the perception of tinnitus and also its reaction,” says Cosetti. That can be combined with other methods, including sound “masking,” that is, using white or pink noise machines and apps or sleeping with the fan on, to reduce tinnitus noise, especially at night, when silence it can make the condition more noticeable. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practice can also be “quite effective,” says Cosetti.

But if the hearing loss does not respond to medical treatment, González says, “we often recommend the use of hearing aids, bone-anchored implants, or cochlear implants.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the crisis text line at 741741 .

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