Did you develop tinnitus during COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a dramatic decline in routine interactions between patients and healthcare providers, including audiologists. Despite this overall slowdown, I noticed an anecdotal increase in the proportion of patients presenting with tinnitus during the pandemic - but this was not related to the virus itself. I think the explanation lies in the climate of COVID-19, that is, a climate of anxiety, pressures, social isolation, depression, uncertainty, and neglected health. We did not all recognise the pandemic as an opportunity to rediscover our wellness and redefine our work-spaces. Some people slipped through the cracks of eligibility for the government's financial relief packages entirely.
It is not surprising that the proportion of patients presenting with tinnitus has increased during the pandemic. There are direct connections between the limbic (emotional) brain and the auditory system, and there is evidence that the onset of intrusive tinnitus often occurs during a time of high stress. One of the earliest studies demonstrating this link was presented by Dr. Jonathan Hazell at the 5th International Tinnitus Seminar in 1995. The results of this study suggested that in most cases, clinically significant tinnitus arose at a time of upheaval in a person’s career, when one’s ability to support his/herself and one’s identity as a contributor to society were being challenged.
The onset of tinnitus represents a critical time for many patients, where pervasive beliefs about tinnitus and its prognosis form very quickly. Medical and audiological investigation are essential, so that any serious underlying medical causes can be detected and treated. It is equally important, however, for us to start working together to form a targeted tinnitus treatment plan as early as possible.
There are many physiological, emotional, and cognitive aspects that come into play when a person has a serious negative reaction to their tinnitus. At Lindfield Audiology our approach is to begin by finding out about the impact of tinnitus on all areas of daily life and prioritising from there.
Most evidence-based tinnitus treatments involve structured counselling combined with sound therapy to assist patients in habituating to their tinnitus. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) and Tinnitus Activities Treatment (TAT) are two such examples. I went through certification training in TRT in Maryland in 2017, and later that year travelled to Iowa for training in TAT.
If you would like to know more about how we manage tinnitus or would like to come and see us for your tinnitus, please feel free to get in touch.