Long Covid symptoms: How to manage ‘distressing’ change in hearing – expert

Nick Knowles reveals he kept his long covid 'a secret'

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A recent study by King’s College London revealed that one in five people who tested positive for Covid experienced tinnitus at the same time. Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, whining or other noises in one or both of your ears or your head that isn’t from an external source. It has since been listed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as a symptom of long Covid.

Although for a few people within the study the ringing in the ears lasted only a couple of days, more than half of them were still experiencing tinnitus weeks or months afterwards.

Nic Wray, from the British Tinnitus Association, said: “Some people hardly notice the sound, but for others it can be very distressing, and have a big impact on their quality of life, affecting their mood, sleep and concentration.

“In most cases, tinnitus improves or even goes away with time because the brain ‘forgets’ it’s listening to the sound.

“This is called habituation.”

And Dr Tariq Mahmood, medical director at Concepto Diagnostics – which provides Covid tests for travel – explained why there could be a link between coronavirus and hearing.

“The anxiety and stress caused by restrictions and isolation during the pandemic have been consistently suggested as a reason behind people experiencing tinnitus due to a bidirectional relationship between stress and tinnitus,” he said.

“This seems plausible as several viral infections have been known to cause direct damage to the inner ear area.

“They can induce an inflammatory response or make the inner ear vulnerable to a bacterial or fungal infection.”


There is no cure for tinnitus.

However, Ms Wray said “there are lots of things people can do to make it better or even encourage it to go away”.

“Because everyone’s tinnitus is different – what works for one person may not work for someone else,” she advised.

“What they have in common is that they can take time, so patience is key.

“If Covid has left someone with hearing loss as well as tinnitus – and we know this is quite common – then fitting hearing aids will help with both conditions.

“Sometimes quiet background sound – natural sounds, a fan, music or the radio – played at a quieter level than the tinnitus – can encourage the brain to listen to the more interesting sound instead of the tinnitus.

“Stress also plays a big role in the development and continuance of tinnitus and learning to relax – perhaps by doing some breathing exercises or a meditation exercise from an app – can help.”

Other research also proved a connection between hearing issues and COVID-19.

A study, conducted by The University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, found that 7.6 percent of people who contracted Covid went on to suffer a loss in hearing, while 14.8 percent of people reported suffering with tinnitus and 7.2 percent of people reported suffering with rotatory vertigo.

And another paper by researchers at Lamar University in Texas showed the estimated prevalence of tinnitus post COVID-19 is eight percent.

Common symptoms of long Covid include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations

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