- Know Alzheimer’s Disease: Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer’s Month - August 31, 2021
- Studies Show that COVID-19 Can Affect Tinnitus - June 28, 2021
- New Face Masks Can Help Communication - June 22, 2021
Tinnitus is the perception of hearing a specific noise in one or both ears. This noise is often described as a buzzing, ringing, or hissing sound that can be experienced mildly to loudly. Tinnitus is experienced though no actual sound is present in the environment. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that at least 10% of people in the U.S. experience chronic tinnitus. A symptom of an underlying health issue, tinnitus is typically associated with medical conditions like hearing loss. New studies show that tinnitus can also be triggered by COVID-19.
Link Between COVID-19 and Tinnitus
As growing research examines the health implications of COVID-19, more of the effects of the virus are being identified. Recent studies have established a link between the virus and tinnitus. Two studies include:
- Anglia Ruskin University Led Study: published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, researchers at the U.K. based university investigated the relationship between COVID-19 and tinnitus. The study consisted of 3,103 people from 48 countries and focused on people who had pre-existing tinnitus. Researchers found that: 40% of the people who experienced COVID-19 also experienced worsening tinnitus. They also found that a small amount of people experienced tinnitus for the first time along with other COVID-19 symptoms.
- University of Manchester Led Study: published in the Journal of International Audiology, researchers did a systematic review of the research on the impact of COVID-19 on hearing. They found that nearly 15% of people reported experiencing tinnitus and COVID-19 simultaneously. Additionally:
- 7.6% of people reported hearing loss
- 7.2% reported vertigo
Viral infections can cause tinnitus so the correlation between COVID-19 and tinnitus is not surprising. Researchers also suggest that there are a few ways COVID-19 worsen tinnitus:
- Increased stress: fear around getting the virus, increased loneliness, financial concerns, and challenges sleeping because of stress exacerbate tinnitus. Stress is a major trigger of tinnitus, exacerbating the symptom.
- Social withdrawal: social distancing measures and little social movement has impacted the way people live. Working from home and having less access to social life has changed routines and daily life. These changes can heighten the experience of tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be experienced temporarily or more consistently so it is important to have your hearing evaluated.
Tips to Manage Tinnitus
In addition to having your hearing assessed, there are ways that you can manage tinnitus and reduce its impact. A few tips you can practice to alleviate tinnitus include the following:
- Reduce Stress: Stress is a significant trigger of tinnitus. It is important to identify stressors and ways to minimize them or process stress healthily. You can explore this by engaging in relaxation activities: yoga, meditation, walks, exercise, etc. These are useful ways to help the muscles relax, enhance breathing, and reorient stressful energy into calming energy.
- Create White Noise: when the space you are in is quiet, it can increase the intensity of tinnitus because it shifts your focus to the sound. Creating white noise (or ambient noise) is a useful way to mask tinnitus and prevent it from feeling amplified. You can do this by using a white noise machine or playing soft sounds in the background (music, podcast, relaxing sounds, etc.).
- Protective Wear: wearing protective gear for the ears like: headphones, earmuffs, earbuds, etc. reduces the amount and impact of loud noise you absorb. This protects your hearing health and can reduce the experience of tinnitus.
- Quality Sleep: the lack of sleep (or quality sleep) can trigger tinnitus which then impacts sleep. This cycle can be challenging to disrupt but a useful way to intervene is to create conducive conditions to restful sleep. This includes practicing a sleep schedule, establishing a sleep routine that is calming, ensuring your bedding is comfortable, adjusting the lighting prior to sleeping, using essential oils to aid in relaxation, avoiding electronic screens at least 30 minutes prior to sleeping, etc.
- Increase Physical Activity: exercise can help alleviate tinnitus by reducing stress, providing energy, improving mood, and contributing to better sleep.
- Reduce Consumption: specific ingredients like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol can amplify tinnitus. Eliminating or reducing your consumption of these substances can be a helpful way to reduce tinnitus.