Often referred to as ringing in the ears, tinnitus is another condition where research is needed to explore its relationship with COVID-19. As patients recover from the fatal viral infection, many report tinnitus symptoms. Although tinnitus is not directly considered a symptom of COVID-19, the post-COVID condition affects many patients.
A systematic review regarding ear health symptoms of COVID suggests that nearly 15% of recovering patients experience tinnitus. While the connection between the two health conditions is still unclear, some factors can serve as clues. Continue reading to learn more about COVID and tinnitus and if the two are interlinked.
What is Tinnitus, Exactly?
Typically, tinnitus refers to a hearing condition in which an affected person hears sounds that do not exist around them. Some experts also describe it as a perception of sound that has no external source.
While ringing in the ear is the most common sound that most tinnitus patients experience, it can also be present in other sounds like buzzing, chirping, whistling, etc. In some rare cases, tinnitus can also occur in the form of music.
The unpleasant sensational hearing condition is extremely common worldwide, especially among older adults. Around 50 million adults suffer from tinnitus. According to various surveys, more than half of the adults suffering from tinnitus have done so for over five years. The timeframe for the disease shows that it is a chronic condition. Many conditions can trigger and worsen tinnitus; is COVID-19 one? We will discuss this further in this piece.
Not to mention, all humans experience short-term tinnitus at some point, according to the American Tinnitus Association. This is mostly due to exposure to loud noise. For example, you might experience tinnitus after attending a concert. In such cases, the condition should go away by itself, but you must seek medical help if tinnitus prevails for a long time.
Does COVID-19 Cause Tinnitus?
Many people still wonder whether tinnitus and hearing loss can be associated with COVID-19 and other viral infections. Let’s have a look at what we know.
Much remains undiscovered regarding the adverse effects of COVID-19 on human health. According to experts, COVID-19 does affect other organs of the body apart from the respiratory system.
For starters, SARS-CoV-2 can link to tinnitus and other hearing-related health issues. This is especially logical when the viral infection already causes so many symptoms affecting the upper respiratory system. This can especially put pressure on the ears and cause tinnitus. However, experts believe this is more likely the case with the Delta variant of COVID.
Nevertheless, patients have reported tinnitus as a symptom since the pandemic’s beginning. One group of researchers even looked into the matter to search for audio-vestibular symptoms of COVID. However, the results did not show any relation between tinnitus and severe acute respiratory syndrome.
But a return to the research in December 2020 revealed:
- An estimated 7.6% of patients reporting hear loss
- An estimated 14.8% of people report tinnitus
- An estimated 7.2% of people reporting vertigo
This evidence suggests that COVID-19 can have a relationship with audio-vestibular conditions. The American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors Audiology, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Associated revealed these statistics. Along with publishing the results, the study also conveyed the need for further studies that are yet to come.
COVID and Tinnitus: Conclusion
It is hard to confirm whether tinnitus is a direct symptom of COVID-19 infection but there sure is a connection between the two. This is evident in the high reporting rates. Regardless, tinnitus can be annoying and debilitating, so consulting a medical professional will help.
Stephen Geller Katz, LCSW-R
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