Could COVID-19 Cause Tinnitus or Hearing Loss?

The novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has changed our world. Many of us are still adjusting to the ‘new normal.’ Many of us have seen significant impacts to our day to day lives. Remote working, virtual classrooms, social distancing and face coverings are just a few of the changes we’ve all had to deal with.

And the virus isn’t just affecting the U.S. Millions of people around the world have tested positive for coronavirus. Sadly, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to the virus.

Scientists are doing their best to increase our understanding of the coronavirus. This includes how it is transmitted. They are also looking at the health implications of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the most commonly reported symptoms of coronavirus are: 

  • Fever or chills
  • A persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing / shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache

While these are the most commonly reported symptoms, the CDC notes that the list is not exhaustive. Other people have reported other symptoms.

We still don’t know too much about the novel coronavirus, but our understanding is growing. Recently, reports have indicated that some people with COVID-19 exhibit neurological symptoms.

Is it possible that tinnitus or hearing loss are neurological symptoms of COVID-19?

Can COVID-19 Cause Hearing Loss?

A report published in the JAMA network investigated the neurological impact of coronavirus. Their research looked at a sample of 214 patients who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 36.4% of the 214 patients observed, 36.4% had neurological symptoms.

The neurologic symptoms were “more common in patients with severe infection (45.5%) according to their respiratory status, which included acute cerebrovascular events, impaired consciousness, and muscle injury,” the study noted. (Source)

There is no clear link between hearing loss and COVID-19, at present. There are anecdotal reports from patients who report hearing loss associated with coronavirus. It’s clear that we need to research the links between the two further.

What is known, however, is that the coronavirus can cause something called ‘peripheral neuropathy.’

“Peripheral neuropathy refers to the conditions that result when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased.” (Source)

Given the potential damage to our nerves, it is possible for COVID-19 to cause auditory neuropathy.

Auditory neuropathy is defined by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) as a “hearing disorder in which the inner ear successfully detects sound, but has a problem with sending sound from the ear to the brain.”

Can COVID-19 Cause Tinnitus?

It’s a similar story with tinnitus. There is not currently much evidence linking tinnitus and COVID-19. However, if the coronavirus affects our hearing, it is possible that tinnitus is a symptom of the hearing loss.

As our understanding of COVID-19 evolves, it’s important for us all to adhere to the advise of public health officials. One piece of advice involves wearing a face covering. If you have a hearing loss, face coverings can present a unique challenge. We’ve put together a blog to help – read more by clicking here.

If you’d like to book in a hearing assessment, the hearing healthcare professionals at Clear Wave Hearing Center can help. Give us a call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to request an appointment now.

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Face Mask Communication Tips

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, many of us are adjusting to a new normal. Health and safety measures are being implemented from state to state. They aim to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Americans have been advised on the best ways to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19. This advice, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), includes what to do if you are sick. Further information offers advice on protecting yourself and those around you.

You’re probably already familiar with the two most common measures: social distancing and face masks. As the CDC states, “[limiting face-to-face contact with people] is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Where social distancing is not possible (such as when we’re in a grocery store), the CDC has recommended face masks. Face masks are being mandated, as according to the CDC, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”)…  even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.”

The Challenges of Face Masks

We are advised to wear a face mask to keep us and those around us safe. A hearing impairment, however, can make it difficult to understand people wearing a face mask. Some of the challenges include:

  • Limited Visual Cues – Covering the lips makes lip reading impossible. For many with hearing loss, the ability to see other people’s lips and facial expressions are an important communication tool.
  • Muffled Speech – A face masks distorts the sound waves from our mouths. This can result in muffled speech. Even in the most ideal listening environments, it can be more difficult to understand speech. Hearing loss is just one further complication!

Face Mask Communication Tips

If you have a hearing loss, face masks can make communication challenging. While it would be great to see more people wearing transparent face masks, that is not always the case. To help you communicate, here are our face mask communication tips.

  • Use live speech-to-text applications
  • Write things down
  • If someone has asked you to repeat yourself multiple times, rephrase what you are saying
  • Speak clearly and normally
  • Write important notes down – such as a prescription!
  • Use the built-in notepad on your smartphone as a communication tool
  • Reduce background noise
  • Opt for quiet environments to communicate in
  • Wear your hearing device

One point to note – if you wear a hearing device with your face masks, please be careful when removing it. Your hearing device may be caught on the bands of your face mask. We recommend removing your face mask at home, to avoid losing your hearing aid devices.

We know that times are changing. Hearing loss can make an already challenging time more difficult. The hearing specialists at Clear Wave Hearing Center are ready to help you with your hearing needs. Give us a call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to request an appointment now.

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Can Learning to Play an Instrument Improve your Hearing?

Henry David Thoreau was rumored to once have said: “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times, and to the latest.”

Music can lift our spirits, or comfort us during times of trouble. It spans generations and crosses cultural divides. It’s easy to appreciate the art behind a beautiful piece of music.

For those of us fortunate enough to play a musical instrument, we can generate music on demand. Learning an instrument is known to have many different benefits. It can help with communication, time management, math skills, and more.

But can learning to play an instrument improve your hearing?

The Science of Music

Playing a piece of music is a complicated and involved process. Musicians need to be able to see and read the notes they are playing. They also need to be able to listen to what is being played. Listening to musical cadences is a skill that musicians are using constantly.

This ability can give musicians unique abilities. Musicians are often more capable of remembering words or sounds that they just heard. This is especially true when compared to non-musicians.

Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology, physiology and otolaryngology at Northwestern University, Illinois, conducted a study looking at how sounds are processed and detected. The study showed that in people with hearing loss, musicians were better at detecting, remembering, and processing sounds.

”Part of what you are doing as a musician is listening for meaning, harmonies and the sound of your instrument. Musicians outperform non-musicians in remembering what they’ve heard, and this skill is needed to hear in noisy environments”, Nina Kraus said.

Playing an Instrument Improves Hearing

Throughout the study, Professor Nina Kraus looked at 18 musicians and 19 non-musicians. Aged between 45-65, all participants had a hearing loss.

Kraus tested their ability to hear in noisy environments. Using electrodes on the scalp, she monitored the electrical activity in the brain, in response to sounds.

”The nerves in the brains of musicians responded more clearly and precisely than non-musicians. By learning to play an instrument a person can develop auditory skills that improve the ability to hear sound and speech”, Nina Kraus highlighted.

The study focused on people who had been playing an instrument since childhood. However, there is evidence that learning to play an instrument later in life also has its benefits.

Musicians are required to focus on a singular source of sound, regardless of the level of noise in their environment. This skill-set trains our brains, and can result in improved hearing in noisy environments. If you’ve ever been tempted to learn a new musical instrument, now you have a great reason!

Safety today and every day after – We are open

As a company focused on care, our team at Clear Wave Hearing Center is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our customers and staff. Together with our communities, we pledge to do everything we can to ensure you have a safe visit as we honor our mission to help people hear better. Call us on (507) 208-7002 or click here to request an appointment online.

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How to Safely Remove Water from Your Ears

Summer is here, and as it is traditionally the hottest time of the year, people are often participating in water activities, especially when on vacation. And if you are not careful, water can sometimes get trapped in your ears, which can cause an ear infection and even lead to sudden hearing loss. That is why it is important, in instances like these, to remove as much water as possible from your ears in order to avoid any hearing health problems.

How Does Water Get Stuck in Your Ears and How Can You Prevent It?

Water can remain trapped in the ear for any number of reasons, including a narrow ear canal or because it’s trapped by something inside the ear canal, such as excessive earwax or another foreign object.

To prevent water from getting trapped in your ears, you can wear over-the-counter earplugs, or talk to your hearing care professional about acquiring a set of custom earplugs designed for use in the water. These plugs may be more expensive than the typical foam ear plugs purchased at the drugstore; however, they can be custom-fit your ears and are washable and reusable. Visit your local hearing care professional for more information.

Swimmer’s Ear: What You Should Know

Most of the time, your ears will secrete a waxy, water repellent-type substance known as cerumen (more commonly known as earwax) in order to reduce water from getting trapped. If and when water gets trapped in your ears, bacteria may begin to grow which can cause swimmer’s ear. This is more likely to happen in wet and humid conditions, if you have scratches or abrasions inside the ear canal, or if you have reactions from allergies and skin conditions.

Initial symptoms of swimmer’s ear may be mild and include:

  • Itching and redness inside the ear canal
  • Mild discomfort
  • Drainage of clear, odorless fluid

If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor immediately, especially if water has been stuck in your ears for more than a few days. Your doctor may then recommend you to see a hearing care professional.

Best Ways to Get Water Out of Your Ears (source)

    • Tip your head toward the affected ear and gently tug on the earlobe.
    • Move your jaw by yawning or chewing gum. Then tilt your affected ear toward the ground and gently tug on the earlobe.
    • Take a breath, pinch your nose with your fingers, close your mouth and gently exhale to open your Eustachian tubes.
    • Lay on your side for a few minutes with the affected ear resting on a towel or pillow.
    • Cup the palm of your hand securely over the ear. Tilt your head toward the ground as you gently push and release your palm back and forth to create suction.
    • Rest your affected ear on a warm compress or blow warm air from a hair dryer (on the low setting) into the ear canal. Be very careful when using heat.
    • Use hydrogen peroxide ear drops, available in most drug stores. PLEASE NOTE: Only try this option if you do not have an ear infection, perforated ear drum, or eardrum tubes.
    • Never insert any objects in your ear, such as cotton swabs.

*If these techniques don’t work or if you feel pain or develop a fever, contact a medical professional immediately.

We’re Southern Minnesota’s Premier Hearing Care Provider

If you’d like to speak with one of our experienced hearing care professionals, please request an appointment or contact us today. At Clear Wave Hearing Center, we are here to help you with all your hearing needs.

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Safety today and every day after – We are open

As a company focused on care, our team at Clear Wave Hearing Center is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our customers and staff. Together with our communities, we pledge to do everything we can to ensure you have a safe visit as we honor our mission to help people hear better.