Researchers study relationship between COVID-19, development of tinnitus

Published: March 23, 2021 5:10 PM EDT
Updated: March 23, 2021 5:16 PM EDT

Studies show the coronavirus is also causing tinnitus in some people, a ringing of the ears that can lead to dizziness. A man we spoke to has tinnitus but did not develop it due to COVID-19. Regardless of the cause, he said it’s horrible.

For Robert Cacus, it started with silence.

“One day, I just stopped hearing everything, and that lasted for two days,” Cacus said. “I went to the hospital and the ER and they were like, ‘We don’t see anything wrong with you.'”

When his hearing returned so did unpleasant symptoms.

“I started having ringing in my ears, and I’ve had that ringing in my ears now for like 20 years,” Cacus said. “It’s constant, and it’s just a sound that’s in your head, and you just can’t do anything about it.”

Cacus says, sometimes the ringing is so loud, he can’t concentrate.

“I just don’t know what it feels like to just hear quiet,” Cacus said. “I just don’t know.”

New research shows Cacus’ tinnitus could get worse. Several studies are exploring the link between COVID-19 and new tinnitus cases, hearing loss and auditory vertigo.

During Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, six volunteers developed tinnitus.

But the report also says there wasn’t enough evidence to confirm a causal relationship between the vaccine and tinnitus.

“When a condition is common, and COVID is so common, it’s very hard to sincerely draw a one-to-one,” said Dr. Michael Hoffer, a professor otolaryngology & and neurological surgery at UM Health. “So people should be reserved in saying that COVID causes certain things. Certain things we’ve proven, and certain things are just speculation.”

Hoffer says it’s also possible new cases of tinnitus are related to the stress of the pandemic instead of the virus.

“Ringing in the ear and dizziness, in particular, gets worse with stress,” Hoffer explained.

While there is uncertainty surrounding COVID-19’s link to tinnitus, there is one thing Cacus knows for sure.

“I haven’t had COVID yet. I don’t plan on getting it. But if I do have to get it, I hope I don’t have to suffer any worse than I am now,” Cacus said.

While he’s at it, Cacus hopes for a cure too. Depending on the type of tinnitus someone has, it might go away on its own, or it might become permanent.