Recently, you may have seen some concerning headlines about tinnitus and COVID-19. These news stories may seem scary, but in reality, audiologists are still learning about the relationship between tinnitus and COVID-19. In this blog, we’ll explain audiologists’ findings to date about COVID-19 and tinnitus, and explore your treatment options if you recently developed tinnitus.
Tinnitus describes the constant sensation of unpleasant buzzing, ringing, or clicking noises in the ears. It isn’t a cause of hearing loss and can’t worsen your hearing loss, but it does often make hearing significantly tougher. Approximately 25 million Americans have this condition. Learn more about tinnitus on I Love Hearing’s website.
In early research into the link between tinnitus and COVID-19, stories emerged of some COVID-19 patients experiencing tinnitus and other forms of sudden hearing loss. More recent research has yet to conclusively link COVID-19 to causing or worsening tinnitus, even though COVID-19 affects other senses such as smell and taste.
That said, there are signs of a potential but weak correlation between COVID-19 and tinnitus. An October 2020 case study in the British scientific journal BMJreported the case of a 45-year-old COVID-19 patient who had no significant hearing loss prior to his infection. After surviving severe COVID-19 symptoms that required hospitalization, the patient reported tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.
Additionally, a February 2021 report in the International Journal of Audiologyfound that tinnitus comprised 14.8 percent of auditory complications among COVID-19 patients who reported symptoms that affected their hearing. Prior to this report’s publishing, a November 2020 survey of people with tinnitus in the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health more broadly addressed potential COVID-19 and tinnitus correlations.
In this survey, researchers asked 3,100 respondents – among whom were both people who have been diagnosed with COVID and those who have not – how the pandemic affected their tinnitus. Out of 3,100 respondents, 237 said they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, and 40 percent of these 237 respondents (around 95 people) noticed worsened tinnitus alongside their symptoms. Notably, the survey’s lead author has said that the survey should not be misread as establishing concrete connections between COVID-19 and tinnitus. That said, some audiologists believe that, since viral inflammation cases can affect the inner ear, tinnitus could indeed follow some COVID-19 cases.
Another theory is that COVID-19 upper respiratory infections can lead to middle ear infections that may result in temporary tinnitus. In fact, one autopsy of a patient who died from COVID-19 found the virus in the patient’s middle ear bones.
Although more conclusive evidence is needed to link these findings to tinnitus, some patients are still reporting this troubling symptom to their doctors and to researchers. Treatments for tinnitus are available no matter the cause.
Although tinnitus has no cure, there are therapies that audiologists and hearing aid specialists can deploy to help people with tinnitus go about their daily lives. The tinnitus therapy process typically begins with audiometric testing and a complete review of the patient’s medical history. Audiologists can combine the data from these two sources with their own knowledge to pinpoint likely tinnitus causes and develop a treatment plan.
Tinnitus treatment plans could involve the use of hearing aids. People with tinnitus may find that hearing aids restore part or all of their hearing lost to the unpleasant sounds of tinnitus. They do so by amplifying sounds that enter the ear, whereas maskers emit sounds that disguise the unpleasant sounds of tinnitus without further irritating their users. Maskers are also available to emit a low frequency noise that helps cover up the persistent noises caused by tinnitus.
Outside these two treatments, you can manage your tinnitus by smoking and drinking less. You should also avoid loud noises or use noise-canceling devices when around loud sounds. Sometimes, though, these solutions on their own aren’t enough – and if this sounds like you, then you might want to see an audiologist.
Whether your tinnitus is the result of COVID-19 or anything else, we here at I Love Hearing are eager to help. We have four offices in Manhattan and Long Island, and our audiologists and hearing aid experts have decades of experience assisting people with tinnitus.
If we determine that hearing aids will best help with your tinnitus, you can try options from the vast majority of hearing aid brands. With our “try it before you buy it” policy, you can test your hearing aids in real life before putting down even a single penny. And we’re happy to test anyone for hearing loss, including tinnitus, and develop a treatment plan – just contact I Love Hearing today to book an appointment and take the first steps toward restoring your hearing.