COVID-19 has caused health and safety concerns for many people. With over 38 million Americans who have hearing loss, communication has become even more challenging with stay at home orders, social distancing, and the everyday use of masks. This blog will cover preliminary research of COVID-19 associated with hearing loss and tinnitus. Communication strategies while social distancing will also be discussed, as well as new protocols at Professional Hearing Center.
According to the CDC, most symptoms of COVID-19 are respiratory in nature. However, preliminary evidence suggests that the virus may cause neurological symptoms and damage to the cochlea (hearing organ) in the inner ear. The mechanism of these effects requires further research (Mustafa, 2020). There is little evidence published connecting COVID-19 and tinnitus. However, according to the American Tinnitus Association, pre-existing conditions may make it more likely patients will experience tinnitus due to increased stress and depression associated with social isolation and infection avoidance.
While it is too early to know whether a vaccine will have risk of ototoxicity, current treatments pose potential risk to the auditory system. The quinine family of drugs, historically used for treatment of malaria, are known to be ototoxic. Hydroxychloroquine, a recently developed treatment for COVID-19, has a risk of ototoxicity.
Communication Strategies to Use at Home and While Social Distancing
Wait until you are in the same room to talk with others.
Ask your conversation partner to slow down their speech.
Ask your conversation partner to face you when speaking.
Let the person speaking know if you are having trouble hearing or understanding.
Use closed captioning when watching television or movies.
Take some dedicated listening breaks. It takes more energy to listen when you have hearing loss.
What We are Doing at Professional Hearing Center
Using proper safety measures including masks and gloves for all employees
Scheduling appointments with time gaps in order to sanitize thoroughly between patients
We are offering curbside hearing aid services to limit patient contact
New telehealth appointment options
Remote programming for hearing aid adjustment appointments
We are now offering clear face masks to purchase in our offices for $8
1. American Tinnitus Association
2. Mustafa, M W M. “Audiological profile of asymptomatic Covid-19 PCR-positive cases.” American journal of otolaryngology vol. 41,3 (2020): 102483. doi:10.1016/j.amjoto.2020.102483