LU Speech and Hearing faculty research the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for those suffering with chronic tinnitus

In 2018, Drs. Eldre Beukes, post-doctoral researcher in audiology, and Vinaya Manchaiah, Jo Mayo Endowed Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences, were awarded a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for $397,800 to study relief efforts for tinnitus sufferers in the U.S.

Their research explored ways to offer an online self-help program for individuals with tinnitus, a condition that, according to Dr. Eldre Beukes, is characterized by hearing unwanted sounds, such a s ringing or buzzing that do not originate from a corresponding external sound.

“Tinnitus frequently spikes or begins during stressful periods. People with tinnitus are also found to be at higher risk of lower emotional wellbeing, depression, and anxiety," Beukes said. "This led our team to wonder if people with tinnitus might be experiencing more distressing symptoms as a result of the added stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic.”

In May of last year, the pair undertook a comprehensive study with over 3,000 participants suffering from tinnitus and discovered that not only did the effects of the pandemic exacerbate the disorder, but symptoms proved to be more difficult to manage for those who had COVID-19 symptoms.

More research is being done for an in-depth look at the association between preexisting tinnitus and COVID-19 symptoms, but the team hopes that the results of their study will affect how health care providers support those suffering from tinnitus moving forward. “This help comes in various forms such as tinnitus support groups, helplines, medical consultations and specific treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness.”

To view a full report of their research and findings, visit Frontiers in Public Health and American Journal of Audiology.