Tinnitus is an inner ear condition that has been on the rise in recent years. It is described as any sound you perceive when there isn’t one actually being made, such as ringing or whistling. There are many different causes for tinnitus, but our clinic has seen an increase in patients from La Canada, Pasadena and the surrounding areas complaining of tinnitus since the COVID-19 pandemic. And it's not just us - the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has reported more people are accessing its services, and the number of web chats have increased by 256% compared to last year's trend. Their helpline had 16% more callers during this time period as well. Even tinnitus-related searches on Google and other search engines have increased following the outbreak of Covid-19, with searches for “tinnitus causes” jumping over 80% in February 2021 (compared to February 2020). This is significant because tinnitus is associated with hearing loss as it is often a sign of inner ear damage and hearing loss.
What causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is caused by many factors, but the precise cause still remains unknown. The COVID-19 virus could be a factor in tinnitus, though it’s not proven to have any correlation yet; stress and other indirect consequences of the pandemic might play into this as well.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following items are listed as possible causes of the condition:
- Hearing loss
- Ear infection or ear canal blockage
- Head or neck injuries
- Meniere's disease
- Eustachian tube dysfunction
- Ear bone changes
- Muscle spasms in the inner ear
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Acoustic neuroma or other head and neck tumors
- Blood vessel disorders
- Other chronic conditions like diabetes, thyroid problems, migraines, anemia, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
How common is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a common problem that affects up to 1 in 5 people. It's especially prevalent among the elderly, with age being one of many risk factors for tinnitus - although people of almost any age can experience the condition.
COVID-19's effect on Tinnitus
For people who already had tinnitus, getting COVID-19 might make the symptoms worse. A study published in Frontiers in Public Health surveyed more than 3,000 people with pre-existing tinnitus from 48 countries and found that 40% of respondents experienced worsened symptoms after recovering from COVID-19.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Tinnitus can sometimes be a precursor to hearing loss. That's because the ringing you hear is from your sensory cells in the cochlea that have been damaged. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), about 90 percent of people with tinnitus may also have hearing loss, although many may not even realize they have both conditions.
If you have tinnitus or hearing loss, seeing your doctor or Audiologist for an evaluation is a good idea. If you are experiencing any difficulties around tinnitus or being able to hear normally, please do yourself a favor and see a hearing care professional. Book an appointment with LaCanada Hearing Aids & Audiology today.