Study links COVID-19 symptoms to onset and worsening of tinnitus

Tinnitus, a common issue in which people hear 'ringing' in their ears or head without an external source, may be exacerbated by the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19, according to a new study. COVID-19 has been linked to a number of symptoms, including neurological ones like loss of smell, and some of these symptoms persist for weeks or months after the other symptoms clear up.

The study comes from Anglia Ruskin University, which was supported by the American and British Tinnitus Associations to study the potential impact COVID-19 has on this condition. The research involved around 3,100 people who had tinnitus and developed COVID-19.

Of those participants, a huge percentage of them at 40-percent reported that their tinnitus had worsened at the same time they developed COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, the researchers say that a small percentage of participants reported the onset of their tinnitus coinciding with COVID-19.

The findings indicate that tinnitus may be another long-term symptom alongside previously reported issues like skin rashes and other skin issues, underscoring the potential longer-term consequences of this virus. The study's lead author Dr. Eldre Beukes said:

Some of the changes brought about by COVID-19 appear to have had a negative impact on the lives of people with tinnitus and participants in this study reported that COVID-19 symptoms are worsening or, in some cases, even initiating tinnitus and hearing loss. This is something that needs to be closely examined by both clinical and support services.

Some tinnitus sufferers reported a worsening of symptoms related to the lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic, as well, including emotional changes that may cause tinnitus to worsen and participating in more video calls.

The perception of worsening symptoms related to pandemic lifestyles varied by region, though, with the study noting that 46-percent of participants in the UK indicated that these changes had a negative impact on their tinnitus compared to 29-percent in North America.

As with many other potential issues caused or made worse by the novel coronavirus, additional research will be necessary to get a clearer picture of the changes and how COVID-19 may influence them.