February 1-7, 2021, was International Tinnitus Awareness week, which draws a renewed focus on this bothersome phantom auditory percept. With the various health systems that are affected by COVID-19 infections, perhaps it comes with little surprise that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought negative health outcomes across many health systems, and those with bothersome tinnitus are no exception.
Indeed, nearly half of people with tinnitus in the UK have reported worsened tinnitus due to the impact of lockdown and lifestyle changes (Beukes et al, 2020). Individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 continue to report changes in hearing and tinnitus relative to their experience prior to contracting COVID-19 (Munro et al, 2020).
Although the mechanisms defining the relationship between tinnitus and COVID-19 are still poorly understood, general management strategies for tinnitus can be valuable for audiologists who encounter patients with tinnitus in their practice.
General strategies to assist with tinnitus management include introducing low-level background sounds in the environment to reduce any stark contrast between the silent background and the patient’s tinnitus. Further, stress reduction strategies can be helpful, which could include increased social interaction, breathing exercises, or a renewed focus on personal health (e.g., diet and exercise).
Audiologists who wish to seek additional training to support patients with tinnitus at your clinic may find the Certificate Holder – Tinnitus Management® program from the American Board of Audiology to be exceptionally beneficial for an in-depth approach to managing patients with bothersome tinnitus. The program was written and developed by a cohort of audiologists and researchers with extensive experience in the field of tinnitus. You can find more information about the ABA’s certificate programs here.
Beukes EW, Baguley DM, Jacquemin L, Lourenco MPCG, Allen PM, Onozuka J, Stockdale D, Kaldo V, Andersson G, Manchaiah V. Changes in Tinnitus Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Front Public Health. 2020 Nov 5;8:592878. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.592878. PMID: 33251179.
Munro KJ, Uus K, Almufarrij I, Chaudhuri N, Yioe V. Persistent self-reported changes in hearing and tinnitus in post-hospitalization COVID-19 cases. Int J Audiol. 2020 Dec;59(12):889-890. doi: 10.1080/14992027.2020.1798519. Epub 2020 Jul 31. PMID: 32735466.
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