Does COVID-19 Make Tinnitus Worse?

COVID-19 may make tinnitus worse. Ear infections and other illnesses have been known to cause hearing loss and tinnitus and there is more and more research supporting the idea that complications with COVID-19 may also cause tinnitus or amplify it. Some individuals also report that they have had some hearing damage or loss as a result of the condition.

A significant number of COVID-19 patients reported changes in their hearing, and one notable change in hearing is the onset or exacerbation of tinnitus as a symptom. Although experts mention that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic may be linked to worsening of tinnitus, there’s a growing body of evidence that the virus itself may also be a contributing factor.

It is not uncommon for a virus to cause hearing loss or tinnitus. Past reports show that viruses like COVID-19 may cause a condition called auditory neuropathy, a condition that affects the auditory nerve, which sends information from the inner ear to the brain. Auditory neuropathy may cause an individual to experience changes in their hearing, such as hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. 

Study Findings

Newly published research in the journal, Frontiers in Public Health, shows that tinnitus is being exacerbated by COVID-19. Led by Anglia Ruskin University and supported by the British Tinnitus Association and American Tinnitus Association, the study included more than 3,000 participants with tinnitus from 48 countries with the majority of the participants based in North America (49%) and Europe (47%).

40% of the participants displaying symptoms of COVID-19 simultaneously experienced a worsening of their tinnitus. The study focused on people with pre-existing tinnitus, but a small number of participants reported that their condition was initially triggered by developing COVID-19 symptoms, suggesting that tinnitus could be a ‘long COVID’ symptom in some cases.

Roughly 33% of the participants who had tinnitus before the pandemic, “a combination of lifestyle, social and emotional factors during the pandemic” appears to have made it worse, said the study’s lead author, Eldre Beukes, a research fellow at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England.

The study also mentions that a handful of individuals noticed changes in their hearing when they developed symptoms of COVID-19. 

The new study also found that a large proportion of people believe their tinnitus is being made worse by social distancing measures introduced to help control the spread of the virus. Worries such as fear of catching COVID-19, loneliness, isolation, depression, stress and trouble sleeping have contributed to making tinnitus more bothersome for more than 30% of the participants. It should also be noted that due to current restrictions, it has been difficult for people to access proper care for their symptoms.

Lead author Dr. Eldre Beukes, a Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, England, and Lamar University in Texas, said: “The findings of this study highlight the complexities associated with experiencing tinnitus and how both internal factors, such as increased anxiety and feelings of loneliness, and external factors, such as changes to daily routines, can have a significant effect on the condition.

“Some of the changes brought about by COVID-19 appear to have had a negative impact on the lives of people with tinnitus and participants in this study reported that COVID-19 symptoms are worsening or, in some cases, even initiating tinnitus and hearing loss. This is something that needs to be closely examined by both clinical and support services.”

David Stockdale, Chief Executive of the British Tinnitus Association and a co-author of the study, said: “With the second wave of COVID-19 and the resulting national lockdown likely to increase feelings of stress and isolation, it’s vital that we don’t see the same mistakes as before when it comes to community health provision for people with tinnitus.

“Poor treatment of tinnitus in the early stages often leads to much worse cases and severe tinnitus can have a huge impact on mental health. With this in mind, as the COVID-19 second wave takes hold, the healthcare system needs to ensure that anyone who develops tinnitus or experiences a worsening of their condition can access the professional healthcare support they need as quickly as possible.”

If you’re suffering from tinnitus or hearing loss due to complication with COVID-19, you may want to look into solutions to help you manage and cope with your condition and symptoms from the convenience of your own home. 

About AudioCardio

AudioCardio is a data and science backed mobile app that was designed to maintain and strengthen hearing. AudioCardio customers have not only reported changes in their hearing, but in their perception of tinnitus as well. AudioCardio works by providing a hearing assessment to identify damaged frequencies and generate personalized and barely audible sound therapies based on this assessment. Through consistent use, AudioCardio hopes to help promote and support the neural activity and connections required for sound to travel from our environment to the part of our brain that is responsible for interpreting it as meaningful sound.

AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. Learn how AudioCardio can help maintain and strengthen your hearing with your favorite headphones or hearing aids at www.audiocardio.com.

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Reference: “Changes in Tinnitus Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Eldré W. Beukes, David M. Baguley, Laure Jacquemin, Matheus P. C. G. Lourenco, Peter M. Allen, Joy Onozuka, David Stockdale, Viktor Kaldo, Gerhard Andersson and Vinaya Manchaiah, 5 November 2020, Frontiers in Public Health. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.592878/full



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