Tinnitus from COVID-19

Tinnitus from COVID-19

After Texas Roadhouse founder and CEO, Kent Taylor (65) died by suicide due to his suffering from severe tinnitus that was worsened after contracting the Covid-19 virus, many are now wondering if tinnitus is really a post Covid-19 symptom and how it could affect our mental health.

So… what is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is commonly defined as a ringing noise heard in one or both of your ears. Various other noises, other than the ringing sounds, can also be heard, although a ringing noise is more common. The sounds you hear will not be noises heard on the outside of your ears but will seem to be from within them and other people will not usually be able to hear them. Tinnitus is quite common and affects almost 15% of people and it can occur in any age group, but mostly older adults are affected as the older you get, the more likely it is for you to have age related hearing loss and a possible resultant tinnitus. Tinnitus is easily confused with being a disease when it is rather a symptom of more serious issues usually within the hearing system or sometimes of other diseases.

How do we get Tinnitus?

There are multiple factors that contribute to you having tinnitus but the most common are; Age-related, injuries sustained to the ears and hearing system, exposure to loud noises for long periods of time, whiplash, side effects of medication, effects of some diseases, having too much earwax is also a major cause of tinnitus. Personal Listening Devices (PLD’s) are a cause of concern for Tinnitus in young adults and as a teenager who constantly listens to music using my earphones or headphones at high volumes, I can attest to this. Although I’m not sure what’s worse, having Tinnitus or accepting that Mom was right about ditching the earphones! It’s a hard thing to admit although it is very true. When using earphones, the small speaker does not only damage your hearing with loud sounds, but also damages your hearing because of the wax being pushed further into your ear. Headphones are also a cause. While they are the safer option between the two due to the sound not being direct, they can still severely damage your hearing, especially after wearing them for long periods of time. So consider the health of your ears and hearing next time you crank up the volume when donning a pair of your favourite listening device!

How is tinnitus related to COVID-19:

Tinnitus is not seen as an official Covid-19 symptom, though many people infected by the virus have reported some kind of hearing problem, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Audiology. It is not completely known why Covid-19 is causing tinnitus, but there are a few theories that suggest the virus possibly attacks the auditory system. There are also theories that stress and emotions caused by the pandemic could have triggered it, but researchers are saying that hearing loss and tinnitus could be one of the long term effects of Covid-19.

What about the psychological effects of Tinnitus?

Each person with tinnitus will experience something different. Some people do not care much about it while others feel like their lives are going downhill and experience negative feelings or effects like depression, anxiety, sleeping troubles, moodiness, irritability and it could even lead to suicidal thoughts. Studies have shown that this happens due to the fact that people with tinnitus process emotions differently because of how the tinnitus affects their brain system and taps into the noises we can hear. Having hearing issues can sometimes make people lonelier or interact less with other people. Irritability is also often caused after hearing the ringing noises which are said to be annoying and sometimes, unbearable.

What can be done?

There is no known “cure” to tinnitus, however there are ways to minimize it and make it easier to cope with.

  • If you are often exposed to loud noises, reducing your exposure can help you. You could do this by using ear protectors such as ear plugs or any ear covering that will protect the auditory system.

  • Reducing your use of earphones and headphones, instead play music or sounds in the background or from a speaker at a regular volume.

  • Maybe the best way would be to seek professional help, get evaluated and receive the best advice for your specific condition,

As extreme as the suicide of Texas Roadhouse CEO Kent Taylor might be, knowing that it actually happened is a sobering thought! Don’t let it control you, get evaluated by an Audiologist make your inner smile shine!

The author, Miya, is in grade 8, when she’s not writing this article; she’s really busy being a teenager doing teenager things.