What We Know About COVID-19 and Tinnitus

Last update on Apr, 07, 2021

For over 70 years, it has been Miracle-Ear’s goal to connect our customers to the world of sound around them, to improve their quality of life and to stay at the forefront of hearing loss understanding and treatment. In these unprecedented times, we’ve discovered that it’s more vital than ever to stay connected to those we love in meaningful ways. As we start to learn more about the effects of COVID-19 on the auditory system, it’s important for us to make sure that our customers are informed and know as much as we do.

Over the past year, COVID-19 patients have been reporting symptoms that relate to the auditory and vestibular systems. These anecdotal accounts focus largely around the emergence of tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss in individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. While these symptoms aren’t yet fully recognized as symptoms of COVID-19, the prevalence of such symptoms in individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 has spurred some in the medical community to investigate further. So, what do we know for sure about how tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss relate to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Emerging research

It has been well established that viral infections like measles, mumps and meningitis can sometimes cause hearing loss. However, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a newer virus that has yet to be as thoroughly examined as other viruses we know. That is starting to change. A study on the effects of COVID-19 on audio-vestibular symptoms has emerged from The University of Manchester and Manchester BRC Hearing Health in the United Kingdom. Published in the International Journal of Audiology, the peer-reviewed study examines existing research evidence to determine if there is possibly a link between patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss symptoms.

Professor Kevin Munro and PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij pooled data from 24 different existing studies and examined self-reported questionnaires and medical records to see if there is a correlation between COVID-19 and audio-vestibular conditions, specifically tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss. From that data they were able to determine that the prevalence of COVID-19 patients experiencing hearing loss or vertigo is over 7%. Tinnitus, meanwhile, was reported at a rate of almost double that. The rate of COVID-19 patients in the study experiencing tinnitus is just under 15%.

Clearly, there is a strong association between COVID-19 patients and tinnitus, as well as hearing loss and vertigo. However, Kevin Professor Munro pointed out that his and his associate’s research is preliminary. He states: “There is an urgent need for a carefully conducted clinical and diagnostic study to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the auditory system… Though this review provides further evidence of an association, the studies we looked at were of varying quality so more work needs to be done.”[i]

What comes next?

The researchers are quick to point out that while their study does establish associations between COVID-19, tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss, it does not establish causation.[ii] They point out that that these audio-vestibular symptoms could be caused by other factors such as treatments to deliver immediate care. This means that while researchers have been able to establish a connection between COVID-19 patients and their experiences of tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss, it still remains unclear as to whether COVID-19 is the root cause of these problems.

Further research will likely clarify the relationship between COVID-19 and the symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. For the time being, however, we know that there is a possible link and the subject requires further investigation.

Tinnitus symptoms and warning signs

Tinnitus is the sensation of perceiving sound when there is no external source for it. Often, that manifests as a sustained ringing in the ears that won’t go away. Some people report the sound as seeming more like a roaring, humming or buzzing. Regardless of how it sounds to you, the common underlying factor is that you are hearing sounds when you shouldn’t be.

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of tinnitus, especially if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should book an appointment with a hearing specialist as soon as possible. Miracle-Ear’s hearing specialists will help you understand your condition and will work with you to formulate a tinnitus treatment plan. The sooner you book an appointment, the sooner we can figure out how to help improve your overall quality of life. 

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[i] https://www.manchesterbrc.nihr.ac.uk/news-and-events/evidence-supports-covid-19-hearing-loss-link-say-manchester-brc-researchers/

[ii] Ibid.

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