COVID-19 Symptom: Tinnitus
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- COVID-19 can be a cause of tinnitus.
- Tinnitus from COVID-19 usually decreases over time. Several techniques exist to make the sound less disturbing.
- Some people have reported tinnitus after getting a COVID vaccine.
COVID tinnitus is a symptom that some people may experience during or after their infection. Although this symptom does not occur frequently, it’s essential to know that it may be related to your coronavirus infection. This article will guide you through the possible causes of tinnitus, the link with COVID-19, and possible treatment strategies.
Can COVID-19 cause tinnitus?
Before discussing the link between tinnitus and COVID, it’s vital to know what tinnitus is. It’s the medical term for when you experience a ringing, buzzing, or other type of noise in your ears that does not stem from an external source. For some, this may be a hardly noticeable inconvenience. For others, it may seriously impact their quality of life and even affect their mood, sleep, and concentration. Tinnitus can have various causes, such as:1
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noise
- Stress and anxiety
- Ear infections
- Blockage of the ear canal by ear wax, for example
- Neck and jaw problems
Besides these possible causes, tinnitus can also be caused by viral infections, such as COVID. The ringing sound in the ears may even stay present after the virus has already been cleared by your immune system.
COVID and tinnitus can be linked to each other, especially in cases of long COVID. This is the continuation or development of symptoms after being infected with the virus. These symptoms may persist for at least 2 months longer. About 1 in 13 people who get COVID-19 experience long COVID. Some people even report pulsatile tinnitus after COVID, a rhythmical noise that pulses usually at the same rate as the heartbeat.
Besides tinnitus, COVID-19 can also cause other symptoms situated in the ears. It’s possible to experience:
- Clogged ears, as the congestion caused by the viral infection, can block the eustachian tubes, which are responsible for equalizing pressure between the middle ear and the outside world. When that happens, it can cause your ears to feel clogged or full.
- Ear pain, which is a rare symptom of COVID-19 that usually subsides once the infection clears.
Tinnitus and COVID vaccination
Some people have also reported that they experienced tinnitus for months after getting the COVID vaccine. Tinnitus was listed as a possible side effect of the Janssen/J&J vaccine, but this vaccine is no longer available in the US. It’s not listed as a side effect for the vaccines that are currently being administered, although the WHO does state that there might be a possible link between COVID vaccines and tinnitus.2
How long does tinnitus last after COVID?
In most cases, the brain undergoes a process called habituation. This means that the brain eventually forgets about the sound which you perceive. An exact duration for this process can not be given, as it may only take a few days for some people, while others can experience the ringing sound for months after the infection with the coronavirus. Even though the process may take a while, it’s crucial to know that tinnitus from COVID-19 does get better for most people.
Is there a COVID tinnitus treatment?
At the moment, there’s not any medication available for COVID tinnitus. However, you can do a few things to make the sound less disturbing. Some helpful techniques are:1
- Using hearing aids if you experience hearing loss.
- Playing quiet background sounds. This can be a fan, a clock, natural sounds, or the radio played at a lower level. This should help your brain focus on another sound and encourage it to forget about the tinnitus.
- Trying to destress, as a high-stress level may contribute to persisting tinnitus. Relaxation techniques can help with this.
- Sharing your experience with friends or a counselor who may recommend additional techniques or cognitive behavioral therapy.
As tinnitus from COVID-19 may take on different forms, the techniques most fit for you can also vary. It’s recommended to try a variety of techniques and to be consistent in their use to encourage your tinnitus to go away.
When should you see a doctor for your COVID tinnitus?
As there are other possible causes of tinnitus besides COVID-19, it’s essential to see your doctor in case you:1
- Experience tinnitus in one ear only
- Feel like your tinnitus is in sync with your heartbeat (called pulsatile tinnitus)
- Experience dizziness
- Have hearing loss in one or both ears
Tinnitus from COVID-19 is a symptom that doesn't occur frequently. In most cases, it's a symptom of long COVID, although it can also occur throughout the infection itself or as a side effect of some vaccines. How you experience tinnitus and its duration can vary from person to person, but it's important to know that, in most cases, it goes away on its own after some time.
Q: Does COVID cause tinnitus?
A: Some viral infections, including COVID-19, can cause tinnitus. Especially for those experiencing long COVID, tinnitus can be a possible symptom.
Q: Can the COVID vaccine cause tinnitus?
A: Tinnitus is listed as a possible side effect of the Janssens/J&J vaccine, but this vaccine isn't being administered in the US anymore. However, there are reports of people experiencing tinnitus after other COVID vaccinations.
Q: Does COVID tinnitus go away?
A: Besides the habituation process involving the brain paying less attention to the persistent ringing noise, the tinnitus could resolve with time.
Q: How long does tinnitus last after COVID vaccine?
A: The duration of tinnitus can vary greatly. Some people only notice the ringing sound for a few days, whereas others can experience it for months. Regardless of tinnitus duration, it's important to know that it improves over time.