The death of Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, a couple of weeks ago adds to the evidence that covid-19 could trigger another health problem: tinnitus or tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears).
According to reports from the family of Taylor, who died by suicide at age 65, he had been battling the aftermath of COVID-19, including severe tinnitus that had become “unbearable.”
The National Institutes of Health define tinnitus or tinnitus as the perception of ringing or whistling in the ears that can also sound as a roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound. Its intensity can vary from mild to strong; high-pitched or low-pitched. Sometimes it occurs in one ear, while other times it occurs in both.
An estimated 15% of the US adult population (50 million people) experience some form of this problem. 20 million suffer from it chronically and for 2 million it is extreme and debilitating, warns the National Tinnitus Association on its website.
Signs of a possible link
In a survey of nearly 5,200 long haulers or people who experience long-term sequelae of covid-19, 17% reported presenting this symptom for the first time. Three-quarters of them said it was constant.
According to another online survey of 3,100 individuals from 48 countries suffering from tinnitus, a large portion of the 237 people who had symptoms of COVID-19 said that their condition had worsened considerably after the disease.
It is also suspected that it could be a possible symptom of Covid-19, and, in fact, the United Kingdom includes it in its long list of ailments associated with the disease.
After analyzing sixty reports, authors of a study published this week in the Journal of International Audiology, found that 15% of adults with COVID-19 had reported symptoms of tinnitus.
“In the twenty-four hours after publication, we received about a hundred emails from people saying: ‘I was so glad to read about this, because my doctor thought I was crazy when I mentioned tinnitus and now I know I’m not the only one‘”He said to New York Times Kevin Munro, a co-author of that study.
Unlike the United Kingdom, neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nor the World Health Organization still include tinnitus as part of the symptoms associated with chronic covid-19.
Much more research remains to be done and, although there are indications, it is a condition that is difficult to decipher and there is no conclusive evidence about its link to covid-19.
Infinity of causes
According to the National Institutes of Health, tinnitus can result from something as simple as a piece of wax that blocks the ear canal, from a loud noise; or also derive from health problems such as ear infections, hearing loss, brain tumors and others. There is evidence that it occurs with other viral infections other than COVID-19.
“There are at least 200 reasons” why someone might develop it or feel that it is getting worse, he says. Washington Post, Eldré Beukes, an audiologist at the Ruskin Institute in the UK, who published the study on how tinnitus sufferers have been affected by the pandemic.
And it is associated with mental health conditions such as stress and anxiety, which also occur when constant noise in one or two ears affects a person’s quality of life. It is a “vicious cycle,” as audiologist Holly Lovering describes it at Washington Post: “We are stressed because we have tinnitus and then it intensifies because we are stressed.”
That there is no cure or certainty about the duration or evolution of tinnitus is another factor that worries these patients more. For now, treatment is limited to cognitive behavioral therapy that helps them coexist with the disease and tries not to pay as much attention to it. ” Neither two patients nor two tinnitus are the same. For this reason, the best therapy varies depending on several factors “, insists the American Tinnitus Association on its website where there are a number of resources that can help.
For many people this is temporary. The challenge is that once it is detected, it is hard to ignore it.