Tinnitus is common, affecting nearly 20% of the U.S. population. Those experiencing this symptom hear a ringing, whooshing, clicking or buzzing when no sound is present in the environment. A number of factors can contribute to your tinnitus, including exposure to loud noise, stress and inner ear damage. Some experts now suspect that COVID-19 may also play a role.
Tinnitus Changes During the Pandemic
New research published this month in the journal Frontiers in Public Health looked to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with tinnitus. A total of 3,103 participants were enrolled in the study from 48 different countries, mostly in North America and Europe.
Participants were asked to complete a 10-15-minute survey consisting of 50 questions. The survey included demographic information, a measurement of tinnitus severity, questions regarding following COVID safety guidelines, the emotional and financial impact of COVID restricts and use of coping strategies.
The researchers determined that 40% of participants who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms reported a worsening of their tinnitus. Seven participants revealed that they first noticed a change in their hearing after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
A study published in the July issue of International Journal of Audiology looked at 138 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. The researchers found that 13.2% of participants reported a change in their hearing and/or tinnitus after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Loss of Smell Related to Tinnitus
An unexpected symptom of COVID-19 is anosmia, or loss of smell. According to Dr. Matthew Stewart, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the mechanism behind this symptom may contribute to tinnitus and hearing loss.
After a person becomes infected with COVID-19, their body floods their bloodstream with platelet-making cells. These cells, which are normally only found in bone marrow, are much larger than normal blood cells. Because of their size, they can get stuck in the tiny blood vessels of the nose, leading to a blood clot or loss of nerve function in the nose.
“The same thing can happen in the tiny blood vessels in the ears,” Stewart said. “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 available tinnitus treatment and management solutions or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact SW Idaho ENT today.