You may have been hearing more of the term tinnitus lately, following the suicide of Texas Roadhouse founder and CEO Kent Taylor. But What is tinnitus, and how does it relate to COVID-19?
Following a battle with COVID-19, Taylor experienced intensified tinnitus, so much so that it became unbearable for him. Taylor, 65, had just recently committed to funding a clinical study to help military members who also suffer from the condition.
Tinnitus is an auditory condition that causes a ringing, clicking, roaring, hissing, or buzzing sound in the ears, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Tinnitus can happen in just one ear or both. It can be a soft sound or a loud sound, high pitch or low pitch sounds.
“For people with severe tinnitus, the sound is constant and never stops, which makes it really difficult to deal with,” Richard Salvi, PhD., co-founder and director of the University at Buffalo’s Center for Hearing and Deafness, told Health. “Especially when you try to go to sleep in a quiet room. It follows you around all the time.”
Although not officially listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a symptom of COVID-19, many people who have contracted the virus report experiencing tinnitus. A study published in the International Journal of Audiology found that 15 percent of adults diagnosed with coronavirus experience some sort of hearing issue. Tinnitus was the most common issue, followed by difficulty hearing and vertigo.
Another study published in Frontiers in Public Health found that COVID-19 can make existing tinnitus worse. The study polled 3,103 people worldwide and found that 40 percent had worse hearing symptoms after battling COVID-19.
While there is no cure for tinnitus available, there are a few treatment methods that could potentially help. Hearing aids, anti-inflammatory medications, and sound generators are a few examples of tinnitus treatment.
“For people who have experienced tinnitus following COVID-19, there has not been enough data, but in clinic, we have seen patients that had tinnitus for a few days, weeks, or for a couple of months, or continue to experience tinnitus,” Deyanira Gonzalez, Au.D., an audiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, said. “It should be noted that not everyone has experienced it, and it can be hard to determine if tinnitus was truly a result from COVID-19 or other factors.”