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Emerging studies show that coronavirus is potentially causing or worsening tinnitus. Tinnitus medically describes the experience of hearing a buzzing or ringing-like noise in one or both ears. This noise has also been described as clicking, humming, hissing and is perceived when there is no sound present in the environment. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, at least 10% of people in the U.S. experience chronic tinnitus. Tinnitus is not a medical condition but rather, a symptom of an underlying health issue. Now over one year into the pandemic, more research shows that tinnitus could be a symptom of the virus.
Link Between Coronavirus & Tinnitus
Researchers are actively studying the relationship between coronavirus and tinnitus after recent studies have revealed large numbers of people who have experienced both. Though tinnitus is currently not listed as a Covid19 symptom by the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it is listed by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Two studies that have revealed the correlation between both conditions include:
- Journal of International Audiology, published in March 2021: researchers assessed nearly 60 cases and studies of Covid19. They found that 15% of adults who contracted the virus also reported experiencing tinnitus symptoms. Researchers are currently following up with these subjects to determine if tinnitus symptoms were new or if already existing tinnitus was worsened. Kevin Munro, professor of audiology at the University of Manchester and co-author of this study shared with the New York Times that he’s received countless emails from people who read the study and have also experienced both conditions.
- Frontiers in Public Health Journal, published late 2020: researchers surveyed 3,100 people with tinnitus. 237 people experienced Covid19 and 40% reported that their tinnitus was “significantly exacerbated”. This study cited several factors that could contribute to the worsening of tinnitus including:
- Increased stress: from the anxiety of catching the virus, social distancing and isolation measures, homeschooling, working from home, lack of social life etc.
- Increase intake of potential triggers: higher stress levels could be causing greater intake of coffee and alcohol which exacerbate tinnitus
- Medications: people may be taking medications to deal with Covid19 that affect tinnitus.
Seven people in this study reported experiencing tinnitus for the first time as a result of Covid19 highlighting that Covid19 may be more likely to trigger already existing tinnitus than cause its development.
Viral infections are a common cause of tinnitus so the correlation between coronavirus and tinnitus is understandable. Researchers are continuing to study this link so hopefully, more information will be available soon!
Tips to Manage Tinnitus
Tinnitus can significantly affect sleep, concentration, and the ability to complete tasks. As more research shows that Covid19 can worsen tinnitus, it is critical to be aware of the ways in which you can effectively manage tinnitus. There are several tips you can practice to provide relief and reduce the impact of tinnitus on daily life. A few tips include:
- Reduce Stress: Stress is a major activator of tinnitus. Finding ways to reduce stressors and ways to process stress more healthily is incredibly useful. Engaging in activities that help breathing, calming of muscles, and offer relaxation are helpful. Exercise can also be a great way to manage stress.
- Create Ambient Noise: being in a completely quiet setting can cause you to pay more attention to it, amplifying the sound. Creating ambient noise is a great way to distract from tinnitus and mask its sound. You can do this by using a white noise machine or putting on soft music in the background.
- Protect Hearing: there are various forms of protective wear that serve as a barrier for the ears. This includes earplugs, earmuffs, and headphones which reduce the amount and impact of noise you absorb which can reduce tinnitus.
- Sleep: tinnitus can have devastating effects on sleep. It can cause people to experience difficulty falling and maintaining sleep which produces various effects the next day: exhaustion, irritability, lack of concentration etc. Integrate strategies to get long-lasting and quality sleep: develop a sleep routine, use warm lighting, apply essential oils, ensure your bedding is comfortable, avoid using screens etc.
If you are concerned about your hearing abilities or the frustrating symptoms of tinnitus, we’re here to help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.