Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing sounds, usually a buzzing, clicking, ringing or whooshing, that is not present in the environment. Exposure to loud noises, damage to the inner ear and stress can all lead to tinnitus. Many are reporting an increase in their tinnitus symptoms over the last few months; experts suspect this is due to either elevated stress from the pandemic or the coronavirus itself.
A study titled “Changes in Tinnitus experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic” was published this month in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact the global pandemic had on those with tinnitus.
More than 3,000 individuals from nearly 50 countries were enrolled. Participants completed a survey collecting the following:
- Demographic information
- Tinnitus severity was measured with the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory screener
- Adherence to COVID-19 social isolation guidelines
- Emotional and financial impact of COVID-19 restrictions
- Use of coping strategies
The researchers found that of the third of the participants who had tinnitus before the pandemic, “a combination of lifestyle, social and emotional factors during the pandemic” made their tinnitus worse.
A smaller study titled “Persistent self-reported changes in hearing and tinnitus in post-hospitalisation COVID-19 cases” was published in the July issue of the International Journal of Audiology. The researchers looked at 138 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. They found that nearly 15% reported a change in their hearing and/or tinnitus since being diagnosed with the virus.
COVID-19 May Damage Blood Vessels
One common and well-known symptom of COVID-19 is a loss of smell. Dr. Matthew Stewart, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine suspects that the same mechanism behind this symptom may contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus.
When someone is infected with coronavirus, their body floods their bloodstream with platelet-making cells. These cells are larger than normal blood cells, so they can get stuck in the small blood vessels within the nose. This can lead to blood clots and loss of nerve function within the nose.
“The same thing can happen in the tiny blood vessels in the ears,” explains Stewart. “Just as the tissues that enable smell are damaged by Covid-19, we worry that tissues in the ear are affected, as well, and that this damage could last after the virus is gone.”
To learn more about how to combat your bothersome tinnitus or to schedule an appointment with an expert, contact Central Plains ENT today.