Tinnitus exacerbated by covid symptoms and stress, study finds

Tinnitus affects around 15 to 20 per cent of people
Tinnitus affects around 15 to 20 per cent of people

Coronavirus symptoms have been shown to worsen tinnitus for 40 per cent of people with the hearing condition, a new study has suggested.

The online survey was carried out among 3,103 tinnitus sufferers from 48 different countries, with most from the UK and America.

The researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, who published the study in the journal Frontiers of Public Health, found Covid-19 symptoms exacerbated tinnitus in 40 per cent of those surveyed.

Meanwhile, no change was reported in 54 per cent of respondents while four per cent found their condition had actually improved.

Though the study largely focused on those with pre-existing tinnitus, some of the participants said their condition was triggered by the onset of coronavirus symptoms.

The report, supported by the British Tinnitus Association and the American Tinnitus Association, indicated tinnitus could be a long term Covid-19 symptom in some cases.

The hearing condition causes noises, such as ringing, buzzing or hissing, in the ears. A common problem, it affects around 15 to 20 per cent of people.

The researchers also found that stress factors during the pandemic – including fears of catching the virus, financial concerns, loneliness, and trouble sleeping – aggravated tinnitus in 32 per cent of respondents.

Lead author Dr Eldre Beukes, research fellow in Vision and Hearing Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University, said about the findings: “This study highlights  the complexities associated with experiencing tinnitus and how both internal factors, such as increased anxiety and feelings of loneliness, and external factors, such as changes to daily routines, can have a significant effect on the condition.”

She added: “Some of the changes brought about by Covid-19 appear to have had a negative impact on the lives of people with tinnitus and participants in this study reported that Covid-19 symptoms are worsening or, in some cases, even initiating tinnitus and hearing loss.”

Social distancing measures throughout the pandemic, that led to significant changes to work and lifestyle, were also found to worsen tinnitus in 46 per cent of UK respondents. Meanwhile, in the US, 29 per cent of those surveyed found their condition aggravated.

David Stockdale, chief executive of the British Tinnitus Association and a co-author of the study, said: “With the second wave of Covid-19 and the resulting national lockdown likely to increase feelings of stress and isolation, it’s vital that we don’t see the same mistakes as before when it comes to community health provision for people with tinnitus.”

“Poor treatment of tinnitus in the early stages often leads to much worse cases and severe tinnitus can have a huge impact on mental health,” he added.

“With this in mind, as the Covid-19 second wave takes hold, the healthcare system needs to ensure that anyone who develops tinnitus or experiences a worsening of their condition can access the professional healthcare support they need as quickly as possible.”

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