The long-term implications for the health of individuals who have had COVID-19 are still being learned. This is an ongoing, real-time lab experiment that spans the globe and a myriad of unique circumstances.
And one of the many areas being studied and tracked is the long-haul implications to hearing. It’s becoming clear that, for some people who come down with COVID-19, hearing loss is a reality. One aspect of this is an intensification of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a condition marked by a persistent sound being perceived that is not really “there,” usually in the form of a ringing noise. It can be caused by several things — an injury, circulatory issues, or aging — and is found in about 15 percent of people in the United States.
A recent study by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in England and published in Frontiers in Public Health has found that “tinnitus … is being exacerbated by COVID-19. The study, which involved 3,103 participants from 48 countries, found that 40 percent of those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 simultaneously experience a worsening of their tinnitus.”
The British Tinnitus Association and the American Tinnitus Association sponsored the study jointly and it had participants from 48 countries (though most were in Great Britain or America). The project mostly covered people who already had tinnitus, though some subjects first developed it when they came down with COVID-19.
In addition, the reality of social isolation, the stress of lockdowns, and the increased use of video conferencing were all cited by study participants as exacerbating their tinnitus. Not only can COVID — perhaps because of underlying circulatory issues it might cause — worsen or cause COVID, but the social-wide strategies for dealing with a global pandemic do not help.
This, as with so many other areas of health relating to COVID, will need to be studied moving forward.