Covid-19 and tinnitus: Everything you need to know


An October 2021-study stated that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, can also infect the inner ear, including hair cells that are critical for hearing and balance.

The study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts Eye and Ear (a Harvard teaching hospital based in Boston) used novel cellular models of the human inner ear that they developed along with adult human inner ear tissue. They examined the pattern of infection in their tissue samples and cross-verified it to a group of 10 Covid-19 patients who had complained of ear-related symptoms such as tinnitus, vertigo, and mild to severe hearing loss.

“Damage to cochlear hair cells, which can cause hearing loss, is usually evaluated by measuring otoacoustic emissions — sounds given off by sensory hair cells as they respond to auditory stimulation. Among the six Covid-19 patients in the study who underwent this testing, all had reduced or absent otoacoustic emissions,” a media statement said.

However, the number of people affected by the condition is not yet known.

healthcare at home, home care, tele consultations, doctors on duty, Doctor's Day 2020, health, indian express, indian express news Hearing loss should be addressed at the earliest (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

As per Dr Divya Prabhat, ENT Surgeon, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai, over a period of one year, the condition has increased by 50 per cent. “This could be attributed to the Covid virus. Just how Covid patients lose their sense of taste, the virus may also affect the inner ear and cause hearing loss in severe cases,” she said.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a perception of sound which occurs in the inner ear in the absence of any external source. It can be in the form of ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whistling noise which may be soft or loud.

Which part of the body does it impact?

Usually tinnitus is caused when the sensory nerves or hair cells in the inner ear get damaged and send a wrong signal to the brain. “This is then perceived as sound. It can even directly occur in the brain, which is called central tinnitus. But this occurrence is rare,” Dr Prabhat said.

Tinnitus can cause troubles in concentration, and can also affect sleep. “Overall, it affects the function of the body and can cause rise in blood pressure, hypertension and constant irritability,” said Dr Prabhat.

What should you do if you experience tinnitus?

Early diagnosis of tinnitus can be treated with better results, but if it gets delayed and the damage to the inner ear progresses, it can cause hearing loss and vertigo. In the advanced stage, the sensory organ (cochlea) gets damaged which leads to degeneration of the nerves, she added.

Treatment can be given in the form of sedatives and tranquillisers. Also, a more holistic form of treatment is recommended to keep the patient calm and relaxed. Vasodilator is given to improve the blood flow and oxygenation to the inner ear. In severe cases, steroids may be recommended, mentioned the ENT expert.

Is there a connection between tinnitus and COVID-19 vaccines?

“There is no correlation of tinnitus happening due to the Covid vaccine,” Dr Prabhat clarified.

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