Although we think of hearing loss as the purview of aging rock stars, military vets who have been exposed to loud noises or simply the inevitable effect of old age, one of the most unexpected of the varied after-effects of Covid is hearing loss – most specifically tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
As Celeste McGovern, What Doctors Don’t Tell You’s regular feature writer, uncovered, more than 29 percent of people who have had Covid report some form of hearing loss.
By far, the greatest incidence (14.8 percent – or nearly 1/6th of all Covid patients in their sample) suffer from tinnitus – persistent ringing in the ears, according to a review of the literature from University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.
Trawling through the medical literature on Covid, the team, led by Ibrahim Almufarrij, of the Manchester Center for Audiology and Deafness at the University of Manchester, discovered some 50 studies reporting audio-vestibular (hearing or balance) disorders. And the two are related, since tiny hairlike sensors in your inner ear are also responsible for helping you keep your balance.
If Almufarrij and his team are even halfway correct, these 171 million worldwide Covid cases could translate into more than 49 million cases of hearing loss, with 25.3 million of them tinnitus.
In fact, online discussions about tinnitus in the 8 months from May to December have increased by 256 percent, according to the British Tinnitus Association. And social media groups where sufferers can share information are also springing up.
And this side effect often persists. Dizziness, tinnitus and ear pain are a common symptom of long Covid. They fall under the general category of nervous system disorders, which include loss of taste and smell as well as hearing, visual impairment, dizziness headaches, and more serious concerns such as convulsions, nerve pain, impaired consciousness, paralysis, cerebral hemorrhage and even stroke.
But why would what has been called a vascular illness attack the inner ear?
The link may go back to one of the side effects of a virus – and also a vaccine for a virus. It’s long been known that viruses can cause certain neurological damage, including Guillain Barre Syndrome. The association of GBS was first reported in June 2020, but it’s long been known to be associated with what is called ‘auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder.’
As we know, Covid is an enabler, stimulating inflammation and causing the body in certain cases to produce too many cytokines, which in turn cause immune mediated disorders, of which autoimmune disease is the most well known.
GBS is just this kind of disease – caused when the immune system overreacts and starts attacking the body’s own cells. The hearing mechanisms get affected when these kinds of inflammatory cells bind to certain receptors in the brain.
Other theories emphasize that Covid 19 causes blood clots, which diminish blood supply, and affects an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, which is abundant in the brain. A suddent limited blood supply could cause the hearing system to go awry.
We also know that many of the symptoms of Covid include systems of the body controlled by the cranial nerves: the olfactory nerve, which controls our sense of smell as well as our acoustic nerve, which controls our hearing.
So ringing in the ears may ultimately start in the brain.
Perhaps most worrying, these effects are showing up with the vaccine, too. In May, the European Medicine Agency, which tallies side effects from all of the four vaccines given in Europe (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen) reported a total of 11,182 cases of ear and labyrinth disorders (including 3 deaths), plus an additional 138,095 nervous system disorders, which could also include hearing, and 1179 deaths from same.
In the UK alone, there were some 3,497 reports of tinnitus (2, 663) following administration of the AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, plus 119,058 general nervous system disorders, as of April 2021, just four months after the vaccine rollout.
Medicine doesn’t have much to offer people with tinnitus other than hearing aids, machines that try to mask the noise with other ‘white noise’ or relaxation aids and the recommendation to ‘learn to live with it.’
Without a conventional medical answer to deal with constant or periodic buzzing, a high pitched whine like a siren or even a constant background beat, often affecting their ability to get a good night’s sleep, can lead many to drastic solutions.
A study in 2015 found that patients distressed by distressing levels of tinnitus had increased suicidal thoughts.
The most notable instance of that is Kent Taylor, the CEO of Texas Roadhouse, who recently committed suicide after developing severe tinnitus from Covid.
“Not knowing when something is going to end and seeing no escape is a recipe for suicidal thoughts,” said clinical psychologist Ursula Whiteside, CEO of Now Matters Now, a suicide prevention group.
But in our experience, like many degenerative diseases, tinnitus isn’t a life sentence. Studies show that tinnitus is made worse by free radicals in the body, and many of the primary antioxidants plus the B vitamins, particularly B12, have been shown to alleviate symptoms. Herbs, energy medicine and body work to heal locked fascia have also healed many cases of tinnitus.
My late friend Beth discovered this when trying to help her husband treat his prostate cancer. After changing their standard American diet to one that was strictly organic, wholefood and low-carb, her husband recovered, but to her great surprise, she was able to throw away her hearing aids, too.
The hearing problems she suffered disappeared simply with a healthy diet.
We know that people who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, heart disease or hypertension or have very low levels of vitamin D are responsible for the overwhelming number of Covid cases.
All of which suggests that tinnitus, just like severe cases of Covid, starts and ends with what you are feeding your body.
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