The New York Times reports a study from the Journal of International Audiology found that 15 percent of people infected with the virus suffered from tinnitus, the medical term for a constant ringing in the ears.
Some theories are the virus can make the symptoms of tinnitus more intense for those who previously dealt with it prior to COVID, possibly the medication used to treat the virus makes the ringing worse, or maybe the overall stress of being infected and the pandemic in general.
Audiologist Dr. Eldre Beukes explains, “There are a lot of viruses that have an impact on the ears, including measles, mumps, and rubella. It could also be the case that medication taken to combat COVID is making tinnitus worse. And there is a well-known link between tinnitus and stress.”
The NYT notes in one study that looked at individuals who had ringing in their ears before contracting the virus that 40 percent said COVID made their tinnitus worse, including Aisling Starrs from Nothern Ireland, a mom who developed the ear issue after she gave birth to her daughter.
"I got COVID, and it went straight for my ears. On a scale of one to 10, it was a three before COVID. Since then, it’s been a seven,” the occupational therapist recounts, sharing she was relieved to find out she was not alone. “I thought, ‘Thank God’ when I realized I wasn’t the only one out there. I’ve met people through my work who don’t realize that there’s a medical term for the ringing in their ears. Just knowing that other people have the same condition is an enormous relief.”
Tinnitus can be caused by a slew of things including being exposed to loud noises, stress, hearing loss and a perforated eardrum. There is no cure currently for tinnitus, but some patients find relief with cognitive behavioral therapy.