Tinnitus: Is it a side symptom of COVID-19?

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is an experience of a constant sound in one or both of your ears. Symptoms of tinnitus can be debilitating in some cases. It may also pose a risk for hearing loss, head injury, depression and anxiety.

Moreover, tinnitus can be subjective or, less commonly so, objective. Meaning that in some cases the sound can be heard only by the subject experiencing the tinnitus and in some cases, tinnitus can be heard by the subject experiencing and by someone else within the close range of the subject.

How does tinnitus sound?

There are many sounds that can be present. Also, it is not uncommon to hear more than one sound. Most prevalent sounds are:

  • Ringing
  • Whistling.
  • Hissing.
  • Roaring.
  • Humming.
  • Buzzing.
  • Shrieking.
  • Clicking.

Sound loudness may also vary. For some, the sound head can be constant and others may experience an intermittent sound.

Where is the sound actually coming from?

The sound can originate due to spontaneously increased firing rate of neurons of the central auditory system. Neurons are nerve cells which deliver messages to the brain. Central auditory system is our hearing system and is responsible for sound recognition and interpretation. Hearing loss downregulates the inhibitory cortical processes which, in this case, inhibits the hearing potential. This subsequently increases the excitability of central auditory structures which could contribute to the development of tinnitus.

However, the above is just one of the theories and is not entirely clear as some of the research suggests that tinnitus can remain even after cutting the auditory nerve which is the nerve allowing us to hear sounds and voices.

What causes tinnitus?

Let us start with probably the newest cause of tinnitus which is COVID-19. There are a number of people who have fallen ill with COVID-19 and developed a side symptom of tinnitus. Because the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) also impacts the systems beyond the respiratory system, it is logical that tinnitus can be one of the symptoms of COVID-19 and it is suggested that Delta variant is most likely to cause tinnitus in relation to other variants.

Other causes can include listening to very loud music or being surrounded with high noises or voices. It is suggested that sound of 70 – 80 decibels and above is sufficient enough to start damaging hearing and potentially induce tinnitus.

Moreover, there are several other conditions which are associated with tinnitus development. Those are:

  • Otological (ear related) infections.
  • Ear damage.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) (sounds heard may be rhythmical to heart beat).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Anxiety, depression or emotional trauma.
  • Meningitis.
  • Head or neck injury/trauma.
  • Brain tumour or space occupying lesion.

How to treat tinnitus?

For those who are wondering how to treat tinnitus, this vastly depends on the cause of the tinnitus. In cases such as a brain tumour, ear conditions or severe neck injury, operation might be necessary. Moreover, if someone has diabetes or hypertension, then they should be prescribed a specific medication for those conditions. 

However, to date, there is no effective drug or treatment which could permanently suppress it.

Also, there are several alternative therapies which might help you to manage the condition. Those include massage therapy, acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy and sound therapy, hearing aid if the hearing loss is present. However, the evidence for the effectiveness of each of these therapies are somewhat weak.

Will tinnitus ever go away?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. Tinnitus can remain with a person for the lifetime or, on some occasions, it might disappear just as quickly as it came on. There is a lot of research being done now, hence, we can hope that a cure or some sort of remedy will be discovered in due time.

We hope this information is useful for you. If you need advice or have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Mill Hill Broadway and Islington. We are always happy to help. If you like this blog, please share!




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