COVID-19 and Tinnitus: An Initiative to Improve Tinnitus Care
Tinnitus is the perception of sounds without an external stimulus (Baguley, McFerran, and Hall 2013). Its prevalence is estimated to be between 10% and 15% and it is more commonly experienced by males and the older population (Baguley, McFerran, and Hall 2013; Lockwood, Salvi, and Burkard 2002). Tinnitus is heterogeneous, with numerous aetiologies, but it is often accompanied by hearing loss (Tonkin 2002) and can be exacerbated by emotional distress and vice versa; chronic stress, anxiety, and depression are frequently reported among tinnitus patients (Mazurek, Boecking, and Brueggemann 2019; Salazar et al. 2019).
After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries implemented some form of social restrictions and lock-down measures throughout 2020 and 2021, including temporary closure of public venues and workplaces and travel restrictions (Thome et al. 2020). Evidence suggests that social restriction measures increased unemployment, mental ill-health, poor sleep, and financial worries (Fisher et al. 2020; Vindegaard and Benros 2020). Medical resources were concentrated on treating COVID-19 patients and therefore significant disruption of non-urgent healthcare services was observed worldwide (Webb et al. 2022). Adoption of telehealth services surged in countries such as Australia, the UK, and the USA (Ohannessian, Duong, and Odone 2020).
There has been an increasing number of reports of tinnitus following COVID-19 exposure. A systematic review reported that from 18 studies which explored the effects of COVID-19 on individuals with tinnitus, the pooled prevalence of tinnitus in suspected and probable COVID-19 cases was 8% (Beukes et al. 2021c). As tinnitus is a prevalent and debilitating condition and individuals with tinnitus are likely to be exposed to pandemic-related emotional distress, there has been an urgent need to assess potential changes in their tinnitus experience during the pandemic to provide better support and care in the future.
Posted: March 29, 2023
Tags: tinnitus, covid-19