Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, and even hearing loss may be linked to some long-term COVID-19 cases, a troubling new study reveals.
The research found that 14.8 percent of people infected with the virus suffer from tinnitus, 7.6 percent have experienced hearing loss, and 7.2 percent developed vertigo, the sensation of spinning.
University of Manchester professor of audiologists Kevin Munro, director of the Manchester Center for Audiology and Deafness, and PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij found 56 studies that identified a link between COVID-19 and hearing and vestibular problems, according to Sky News.
The vestibular sensory system includes parts of the inner ear and brain that process information related to balance control and spatial orientation.
“If it is correct that something between 7 and 15 percent has these symptoms, that is something that we must take very seriously,” Munro, who collected data from 24 of the studies, told the news outlet.
“There are big implications for clinical services if this means that there could be a large increase in the number of people presenting,” added Munro, whose findings were published in the International Journal of Audiology.
Hearing problems can be caused by multiple viruses, including measles, mumps, and meningitis, which damage the sensory cells of the inner ear, but it is not clear why COVID-19 can also cause these problems.
“There are some people who say that the symptoms continue. There are others who say that it seems to have calmed down a bit, so there are many unknowns at the moment, “Munro told Sky News.
The recent suicide of Texas Roadhouse founder and CEO Kent Taylor, who suffered from long-term COVID-19, has focused attention on hearing problems related to the deadly bug.
Paul Johnson, 53, who was admitted to a hospital in December with COVID-19, has suffered from tinnitus ever since.
“It’s a very high-pitched, persistent whistle you hear,” he told Sky News.
“Something I could compare it to would be if you have water running through a pipe, going through a valve, but you turn it a little bit to get a kind of ‘shh’, a hiss, but it’s a much higher frequency. than that, “he added.
Johnson said he first noticed the irritating sound two weeks before he was admitted and that it has gotten worse.
“You notice it a lot at night, when there is no noise around you, there is no background noise, the television is off and you have this constant hiss,” he told the outlet.
“I think at this point I would consider it manageable. I can’t say I’m staying awake, but I certainly hope it’s not stronger or more noticeable, ”Johnson added.
The researchers’ data primarily used self-reported questionnaires or medical records to obtain COVID-19-related symptoms, rather than more scientifically reliable hearing tests.
Munro suggested that tinnitus can also be caused by actual ear damage due to noise or infection, psychological triggers such as stress and anxiety.
So while there may be reasonable hypotheses showing how COVID-19 could directly damage a person’s hearing, he said the current evidence is not of good enough quality to prove causation, according to New Atlas.
“It is possible for the virus to attack and damage the hearing system,” he said. “On the other hand, the mental and emotional stress of the pandemic may be the trigger. But we must be careful when interpreting these findings, as it is not always clear whether studies report new or existing symptoms. What is lacking are good quality studies comparing tinnitus in people with and without COVID-19. “
They are now conducting a more detailed clinical study hoping to accurately estimate the number and severity of coronavirus-related hearing disorders in the UK.