Links between Tinnitus, Hearing Loss & COVID19

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COVID-19 And Tinnitus

The COVID19 coronavirus has changed global reality in ways we never could have expected. After over a year of social distancing, the highly contagious nature of the virus remains a threat, and public health officials continue to seek the best way to reduce the risks posed by COVDI19.

One of the most puzzling features of the virus is the wide range of symptoms that are associated. Some people are fully asymptomatic, others experience the symptoms of a mind flu, and others have a web of long-term symptoms including respiratory challenges, fatigue, mental cloudiness, and loss of smell.

As the virus continues to infect more people, researchers are eagerly searching to understand how to identify symptoms as quickly as possible. Some new researchers have begun to investigate connections between COVID19 and a surprising condition: tinnitus. After taking a look at tinnitus itself, let’s consider the connection with the current pandemic. 

What Is Tinnitus?

Often related to hearing loss, tinnitus is a condition affecting an estimated 32 percent of the population. Although there are many types of hearing loss, tinnitus comes in two general forms. The first form has to do with damage to the tiny hairlike organelles of the cochlea, called stereocilia. These fragile structures are incredibly resilient when you consider the constant inundation of sound into the ears, yet they are subject to breaking, bending, and becoming otherwise damaged.

In some cases, the stereocilia can be turned “off” to cause hearing loss, but in the other case, they can be turned “on” with a constant experience of the sound of tinnitus. The other form of tinnitus originates from a mechanical sound that the individual can hear internally, including blood vessels or bone issues, but that other form is much less common.

The sounds of tinnitus are commonly referred to as ringing in the ears, but in fact the experience of tinnitus can be quite diverse, ranging from buzzing and humming to whooshing and roaring. Tinnitus is not necessarily a permanent condition, but it can be. Even for those who find that it lasts a very long time, treatment is imperative. 

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Tinnitus and COVID19

Some new research has discovered a potential connection between tinnitus and COVID19.

Though more research is necessary to confirm this relationship, it is important to understand the possibilities. In one study involving 60 case reports of people with COVID19, 15 percent of the reports included tinnitus. With this anecdotal evidence in mind, researchers pursued other studies to get a better sense of the connection between tinnitus and COVID19.

It turns out that another study of more than 3000 people found that 40 percent of people with COVID19 also found that their tinnitus symptoms worsened along with their other virus symptoms. This research brought together data from 48 countries, so researchers are curious to do a clinical trial that brings more substantiated results.

The question remains if COVID19 is thought to induce tinnitus, as other viral infections are known to do, or if it exacerbates the symptoms of tinnitus who already had it prior to the onset of the virus. 

Tinnitus Treatment

Those who have tinnitus don’t need to think of the condition as a permanent diagnosis. In addition to those who find that the symptoms are relieved with time, treatment options are available through a hearing health professional.

The latest hearing devices are not only uniquely able to improve the audio quality of the world for those with hearing loss, but they can also work wonders for those who have tinnitus. These devices are able to emit tones that mask the tones that are consistently playing for those with tinnitus, in effect cancelling them out.

Many people with tinnitus try to mask their symptoms on their own with household devices such as fans, television, or white noise generating machines. These devices can only go so far, and hearing treatment technology is able to work wonders for people with tinnitus, not only at home or in an otherwise quiet environment but out and about in the world.

If you have tinnitus and are interested in seeking treatment, contact us to explore options.

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Alicia L. O'Sullivan, Au.D.

Alicia grew up in Abington, Massachusetts and went to Abington High School. She went to Bridgewater State College for her bachelor’s degree in special education, concentrating in communication disorders, before finishing her education at the University of Connecticut for her Au.D. With a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, Alicia has been getting her hearing tested since childhood. As someone who is aware of the side effects of hearing loss firsthand, she was initially interested in working in special education. However, due to her history of hearing loss, she soon fell in love with the science of audiology.

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