What’s that sound?: Some COVID survivors report tinnitus as long-term side effect

Coronavirus

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As we get the upper hand on the COVID-19 virus, doctors worldwide can now concentrate on the long-term side effects.

We have told you about brain fog, fatigue, hair loss and a whole segment of people with multiple symptoms that just do not go away.

Now, we are learning there’s growing concern about a lingering and annoying impact on your hearing.

Sherry Petta’s COVID symptoms were fairly mild. But within days, there was one severe symptom.

“I never had a fever. I never had a cough. I never lost my sense of taste and sense of smell,” Petta said. “My whole body is buzzing. I’m buzzing. I feel like I’m electric. My ears are ringing and my whole body is buzzing.

As a certified child life specialist, Petta works at a hospital. So, when her ears started ringing, her brain and her gut told her it was COVID related.

Dr. Michael Kubala is an ear, nose and throat surgeon in north Texas. He has seen plenty of patients with tinnitus related to COVID.

“Some are just mild symptoms. Some are severe enough to produce anxiety depression sleep deprivation,” Dr. Kabala said.

In March, the ringing got so paralyzing for Kent Taylor, he died by suicide after experiencing “unbearable” post COVID-19 symptoms.

Taylor was the CEO of the popular restaurant chain — Texas Roadhouse. His struggle made national headlines.

“Studies how anywhere between 5% to 15% of patients have tinnitus after their infection,” Dr. Kabala said. “Anywhere between 3% to 8% percent will have sudden hearing loss.”

So even though there may be a small number of sufferers nationwide, the impact on their lives is huge.

“I think I got really teared up the first time someone told me ‘get used to it,’” Petta said. “This is crazy it’s in my head all the time.”

“Unfortunately, there is no magic treatment to get rid of it,” Dr. Kabala said.

It never seems to go away, so doctors suggest masking techniques like white noise, meditation and even counseling.

“Something called cognitive behavioral therapy, which is essentially psychology retraining the brain on how to respond to these noises,” Dr. Kabala said.

For this active wife and mother of two, tinnitus is part of her new normal.

“Sometimes it’s very loud. Sometimes I really don’t notice it,” Petta said. “I believe its always there to some degree.”

If you, or someone you know, is suffering with ringing or hearing loss, doctors urge you to get a hearing test.

Studies are underway across the world on how the virus impacts your audiology, but at this point there is no definitive way to treat it and quiet that buzzing in your head.

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