For readers of my weekly column, some of you may have noticed my absence for the past few weeks. If you haven’t – well, I’ve missed you!
I’ve been busy – being sick with Covid. There, I’ve said it.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent the entire last year trying to do everything right. You’ve followed the guidelines, sorting through the advice, separating scientific facts (as known) from hysterical fiction. Doing what’s necessary to prevent transmission of the horrible virus that has held the world in its grip for over a year. We distance, wear masks, shelter at home and congregate in small groups as allowed by local health jurisdictions.
But for people with hearing loss, this year has thrown us back to our early days of struggling to understand. Widespread mask use has been the facial equivalent of pulling the rug from under us, knocking us to the ground. It’s been hard to adjust to communication that is far from perfect.
Like you, the Hearing Husband and I were diligent against the virus for months and months. But then, desperately missing our family, we allowed a tiny chink to open in our protective armor. Part of our family – grown children and grandkids – live in a nearby city, and they had been equally diligent, so we risked a visit.
Boom! A perfect storm of bad timing. The upshot is that I contracted Covid from a very close family member, who was equally blindsided at having received it from a friend, and distraught at having passed it along to me. We have both come through several weeks of the virus, experiencing both similar and different symptoms.
I had many frightened thoughts in the early days after contracting Covid. How sick would I get? What to expect? I also struggled briefly with thoughts of guilt that I could allow this to happen – would people judge me? I dealt with all of these questions but, most importantly, I managed to dispel the feelings of stigma at having been one of those people who had done something to expose themselves. But just as I didn’t judge the dear one from whom I contracted it, I know that friends and family certainly don’t judge me. They want me to be better.
The feelings of relief and calm that came with this understanding helped me deal with the physical manifestations of being ill. (While I was lucky enough not to require hospitalization, I certainly didn’t escape other symptoms, the most lingering of which, after going on four weeks, are weakness and exhaustion.)
But then…O.M.G! I read that Covid can exacerbate existing hearing problems, especially tinnitus.
Just what I didn’t need! In my battle against increased tinnitus and hyperacusis in recent months, I had been trying to incorporate mindfulness, more exercise and meditation into my daily activities with some success. But a few days ago, my intrusive tinnitus/hyperacusis became worse, meaning louder, especially in the mornings.
In a study from Anglia Ruskin University in England, 40% of over 3000 people with Covid who were surveyed, experienced a worsening of their existing tinnitus. In addition, studies are showing that some people with Covid are experiencing audio-vestibular issues for the first time. For many, this means tinnitus, ringing in their ears. I personally know of two people who have experienced this.
Studies are still being done and the question is still unanswered (from what I can see) if the Covid-induced tinnitus, whether newly acquired or an increase of existing sound, is permanent. The long-term effects of Covid on our neurological systems are still being determined; it’s new territory.
So, I don’t know what to expect. My exhaustion will eventually clear up – will my increased head sound?
But I can tell you this. I live in hope that things will get better and looking at a recent presentation screenshot of myself reminds me of this. (Trust me, you don’t want to see a picture of me right now.) I’m grateful that my symptoms weren’t worse and that I’m here, today, able to write about my experiences. I appreciate every public health nurse who called me daily to see how things were going. The Hearing Husband has earned 10 million brownie points for taking care of me and cooking all my meals, encouraging me to eat, eat! Walk, walk!
And I believe that, someday, the hell of tinnitus will be calmed and perhaps even cured.
Stay safe, friends.