You may hear ringing in your ears or other bothersome noises that sound like buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or humming. This is known as tinnitus, which can affect one or both of your ears and can come and go overtime. These sounds are not caused by an external noise that other people can hear.
The relationship between COVID-19 and tinnitus is not well understood; however, inflammation is known to be a cause of tinnitus, and recent studies have identified inflammation as part of the body’s immune response to COVID-19. These findings imply that inflammation caused by COVID-19 infection may contribute to the onset of tinnitus after COVID-19 infection.
Some viral infections are known to cause injury to the auditory nerve, which is responsible for transmitting noise information to the brain for processing. Injury to this nerve is associated with high risk of tinnitus. Therefore, the nature of COVID-19 being a viral infection may play a role in the onset of tinnitus after COVID-19 infection.
Factors that are known to increase risk of onset of tinnitus include hearing loss, noise trauma, older age, taking certain medications, disorders that affect the joints and muscles in your jaw, neck injuries, stress, and abnormalities that affect your veins or arteries. Having one or more of these risk factors likely increases the risk of developing tinnitus as a symptom of PASC.
Seeing a Doctor for Ringing in the Ears
When deciding to seek treatment for tinnitus as a symptom of PASC, the first person you should reach out to is your primary care provider, who may refer you to a specialist. The specialist you may be recommended to see for tinnitus is an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear nose and throat doctor, or a neurologist.
Tinnitus is generally diagnosed based on symptoms alone and generally cannot be cured, so noise suppression is often the best way to manage this symptom. White noise machines can help make the noises less noticeable to help management of this symptom. Another similar option is a masking device, which can be worn in the ear to create a white noise that makes the sounds of tinnitus way less noticeable. Therapy, in conjunction with a noise suppression device, may also be used to learn coping techniques and reduce the effect tinnitus has on quality of life.