Studies Show that COVID19 Can Affect Tinnitus

Studies Show that COVID19 Can Affect Tinnitus
Dr. Steinberg

In addition to the known flu-like symptoms that come with COVID-19, such as cough, headache, fever, and fatigue, many unusual symptoms have been observed, as well. Some people have ongoing symptoms, such as “brain fog,” and many lose their sense of taste and smell for some time. In addition to these effects, there is growing evidence of long COVID, meaning that the symptoms persist for an extended time after the virus seems to be out of the body. With these many unusual symptoms and side effects, a recent study has added one more potentially related condition: worsening tinnitus. Although this study did not find statistically significant evidence of a new onset of tinnitus, it did find that many people experienced a worsening of their tinnitus symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at tinnitus, the relationship with COVID-19, and what we can learn about the common bond between these two conditions in the body. 

Tinnitus and COVID-19

Tinnitus is a persistent sound that comes from within the body. Though there is no external stimulus causing a person to hear this sound, it tends to be worst in the quiet hours before falling asleep. Of the two types of tinnitus, one is more common than the other. Objective tinnitus, the less common type, occurs when an underlying medical condition creates the sensation of sound from a part of the body, such as the blood vessels or bones near the ear. A doctor with specialized instruments can hear this form of tinnitus. The other type, subjective tinnitus, is much more common. This type of tinnitus arises when the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear are bent, broken or otherwise damaged. Whereas some forms of damage turn these receptors “off” leading to hearing loss, they can also turn these sensors permanently “on,” creating the illusion of sound. How can something like this be related to COVID-19? The data from a recent study observed a worsening of symptoms among many people who already had a tinnitus diagnosis. That worsening could be due to several different factors. One possible explanation has to do with the limited oxygen supply to the ears for a person with COVID-19. A serious respiratory virus like this can lead to diminished oxygenated blood making its way to the ears. That lack of oxygen is known to cause damage to the stereocilia, and experts theorize that the connection might work in this way. In addition to that possibility, others note the connection between tinnitus and stressful situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Still others theorize that the relatively quiet conditions of lockdowns created a perfect storm for those with tinnitus to experience a worsening of their subjective experience of the condition. With these many possibilities in mind, it remains unclear exactly how tinnitus and COVID-19 are related, but the reports speak for themselves. Those who already had tinnitus were likely to experience a worsening of symptoms after coming down with COVID-19. 

Treatment for Tinnitus

Although many people experience tinnitus as a chronic condition that does not go away on its own, there are ways to deal with these symptoms. Some of the methods of treating tinnitus can take place right at home. When a person with tinnitus is trying to sleep at night, those quiet hours can be the most difficult. The sensation of sound can even be so distracting that they lead to insomnia. For those who have difficulty falling asleep with tinnitus, other sounds can be played to mask those tones. For instance, a television or radio at a low volume can produce a wide spectrum of sound that will mask tinnitus. In addition, a white noise machine or device that plays nature sounds can help hide those tones. In addition to these home remedies, professional treatment for tinnitus is also available. Many of the latest hearing aids can also produce tones that mask the symptoms of tinnitus through a process of tinnitus matching and phase cancellation. If you are interested in learning more about professional tinnitus treatment, don’t hesitate to contact our offices. We can tell you more about the options that are out there and diagnose if they are right for you.