PEOPLE with long Covid could suffer from hearing loss for months, doctors have revealed.
Long Covid covers a range of symptoms that people who have survived the coronavirus have been subjected to, including chronic fatigue and hearing loss.
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Data suggests that around 60,000 Brits could be suffering from long Covid.
New research has now revealed that tinnitus, which is a condition whereby a person hears a ringing or buzzing in their ears is being exacerbated by Covid-19.
Tinnitus is usually caused by an ear injury, age-related hearing loss or an underlying health condition.
Experts at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) along with the British Tinnitus and American TInnitus Associations found that 40 per cent of people displaying symptoms of Covid were also experiencing a worsening of their tinnitus.
The experts studied 3,103 people with tinnitus with participants coming from 48 different countries.
While the study focused on people who already had tinnitus, a small number of those participating said the condition had been triggered by coronavirus symptoms.
The experts said that this suggests that tinnitus could be a long Covid symptom for some people.
Some of the changes brought about by Covid-19 appear to have had a negative impact on the lives of people with tinnitus
King’s College London previously published a list of 170 long Covid symptoms which also included hearing strange sounds at night, tinnitus, buzzing in the ears and ear popping.
In the UK around one in eight adults suffer from tinnitus and it can be associated with anxiety, depression and reduced emotional wellbeing.
England has this week been plunged into a second national lockdown which means reduced contact with others.
The study found that participants felt that their tinnitus was being made worse by social distancing measures, which for many people, have led to changes in their lifestyles and their work routines.
The lead author of the study, Dr Eldre Beukes, a research fellow at ARU, and Lamar University in Texas, said: "The findings of this study highlight the complexities associated with experiencing tinnitus and how both internal factors, such as increased anxiety and feelings of loneliness, and external factors, such as changes to daily routines, can have a significant effect on the condition.
"Some of the changes brought about by Covid-19 appear to have had a negative impact on the lives of people with tinnitus.
"Participants in this study reported that Covid-19 symptoms are worsening or, in some cases, even initiating tinnitus and hearing loss. This is something that needs to be closely examined by both clinical and support services."
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a medical term to describe the perception of noise either in one ear, both ears or in the head, when there is no corresponding external sound.
It is often described as a “ringing in the ears” but the exact sound heard can vary from person to person.
The sounds most commonly experienced include a ringing, buzzing, whistling, humming or hissing sound.
These perceived sounds may come and go or be continuous and the condition can develop suddenly or over time.
In the majority of cases, some may only notice the condition at quiet times, including at night when they are trying to sleep.
But, others may find that the condition intrudes upon their daily life and really bothers them.
There are two types of tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common type.
This is where the sounds are only heard by the person who has tinnitus and is usually linked to problems affecting the hearing pathway.
Objective tinnitus is the second type and is much rarer.
This kind of tinnitus sound can be heard by other people too, for example, a doctor listening through a stethoscope placed by your ear.
Objective tinnitus is caused by a physical problem that produces sound – such as the narrowing of blood vessels in your ear.
Analysis from the study, published in Frontiers in Public Health found that 46 per cent of UK participants said that lifestyle changes had impacted their condition – compared to 29 per cent of participants from the US.
Worries surrounding the pandemic such as loneliness, financial struggles and trouble sleeping were also found to have exacerbated tinnitus for 32 per cent of people.
The experts also noted that women and the under-50s suffered more from tinnitus during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, more than eight out of ten UK tinnitus sufferers were unhappy with treatments available for the condition, and the study noted that the pandemic had made it harder for them to access the support they needed.
David Stockdale, chief executive of the British Tinnitus Association and a co-author of the study, said the second wave of the virus and the second lockdown would induce feelings of stress and isolation.
He said: “It's vital that we don't see the same mistakes as before when it comes to community health provision for people with tinnitus.
"Poor treatment of tinnitus in the early stages often leads to much worse cases and severe tinnitus can have a huge impact on mental health.
“With this in mind, as the Covid-19 second wave takes hold, the healthcare system needs to ensure that anyone who develops tinnitus or experiences a worsening of their condition can access the professional healthcare support they need as quickly as possible."
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