Within months of the spread of coronavirus around the globe, international researchers have identified specific symptoms and their link to various conditions and diseases. In a recent study, researchers found a link between Covid-19 and a hearing-related symptom called tinnitus.
International researchers led by Anglia Ruskin University published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, describing how tinnitus has changed during the pandemic. The team analyzed patients with pre-existing tinnitus and cases where coronavirus initiated the ear problem.
According to Mayo Clinic, tinnitus is not a condition but a symptom of an underlying condition such as hearing loss or an ear injury. People with tinnitus experience an uncomfortable sensation of hearing sound in the ears such as ringing, humming, or clicking.
Tinnitus affects up to 20% of people and is typically not a health problem unless it is linked to an underlying condition such as a circulatory system disorder. The phantom noise may be heard occasionally or be continuously present.
Tinnitus During the Pandemic
The study involved 3,103 people across 48 countries. The team discovered that 40% of the people had coronavirus symptoms while their tinnitus worsened.
The researchers initially focused on people with pre-existing tinnitus but discovered that seven people only developed tinnitus after testing positive for coronavirus. Results also suggested that tinnitus may be a symptom of long-haulers or those with prolonged symptoms of the virus.
In the United Kingdom, tinnitus affects nearly one in eight adults. These cases are also linked to depression, anxiety, and other emotional disorders. Meanwhile, in the United States, about 29% answered that the pandemic negatively affected their tinnitus.
One of the common causes of tinnitus is hair cell damage in the inner ear, affecting the pressure of soundwaves. It can also be triggered by nerve damage from chronic health conditions.
A percentage of the people who completed the online survey, consisting of 60 questions, reported that their tinnitus worsened after social distancing measures were implemented. Physical distancing dramatically affected people's lifestyles and work routines.
The Need for Healthcare Support
There are several factors associated with the general trend of tinnitus getting worse such as increased depression and anxiety, trouble sleeping, increased online meetings, and noisy home environments. Moreover, those with chronic tinnitus due to underlying conditions were less likely to seek treatment during the pandemic while 80% of patients in the UK were already dissatisfied with available tinnitus treatment pre-pandemic.
Dr. Eldre Beukes said that the pandemic has negatively affected people with tinnitus, especially those with coronavirus symptoms as well, resulting in worsening conditions and even hearing loss. David Stockdale of the British Tinnitus Association said that poor treatment during the early stages of tinnitus could lead to severe conditions that could affect mental health. The healthcare system should develop a way for people with tinnitus or developing hearing problems to gain access to professional healthcare support.
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