Coming Through Covid (with Hearing loss and Tinnitus)

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.

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

11 Comments

  1. Gail, I’m sorry you had to go through this. But happy that you’re ge.her,ally on the mend. I haven’t had Covid but my tinnitus is worse…much worse. Not sure what is going on but something is changing. I have spoken to my doctor who seemed to think it was connected to high blood pressure, which I have medication for. I have also had palpitation which seems to be connected to stress, I do feel stressed and worried but it’s not that severe. The meds have my blood pressure under control for the most part. I’m hoping to get the vaccine soon, so I hope it’ll bring some peace of mind.

  2. Thank you for “reaching out,” as they say. Reading your columns keeps me in touch with a warm person and my world of SNHL.
    Recently I was hospitalized in a major health care system after a bad fall. The experience of communicating with masked personnel is wearying.
    So I have become an evangelist for see-through masks .
    My slogan is I READ LIPS!

  3. Hello Gail. I’m so sorry to hear you contacted Covid. And many thanks for your latest candid communication. You don’t know me but I am one of your fans who have benefitted from your wonderful humour/serious columns on hearing loss. I feel so bad that your hearing symptoms seem to have been affected. What a terrible dilemma. Thank goodness for great family, especially your husband. I have recently taken a first course from the Vancouver Community College entitled “How To Live Successfully With Hearing Loss” and Lisa, our instructor has mentioned many times your wonderful writings and because I was looking through her many helpful sources of hearing help I came across your most recent communication about your Covid misfortune. May it be a lesson for us all who have “taken chances” in this Covid era.

  4. Oh, Gael! What a traumatic time you have been through.
    You have a positive attitude and that will help you get through this.
    Anne

  5. Dear Gael, I’m very sorry to read that you have COVID-19! It’s an awful disease and I’m glad your symptoms are not too strong. I sincerely hope you’ll feel better soon.
    My mum passed away from COVID-19 on the 3rd of February this year. She was infected by a carer who didn’t know he/she was infected and that just before the care home started with their vaccination.
    These things just happen, even if you take all precautions seriously and that’s what makes this virus is so dangerous.
    Please get well soon!

    1. Renee, I am so sorry to hear about your mother – what a tragedy. I’m very grateful that I was able to stay at home during my illness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.