For more than a year now, the world has been facing one of the greatest challenges of the last century: the coronavirus pandemic. Too many people have already lost their lives as a result of COVID-19, or have ended up in hospitals, often in critical condition.
However, no one can deny that we know very little about the people who have overcome the disease; about how they have lived through everything that has happened to them and, above all, about the aftermath that persist over time. According to Nius Diario, a Spanish newspaper one of these symptoms of persistent COVID is 'tinnitus', a persistent ringing in the ears.
Those who suffer from it describe it as "having a badly tuned radio in your head from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep". "It's horrible, you just want someone to turn it off," says Silvia Soler, who continues to suffer the effects of her COVID-19 infection despite having overcome the disease and the fact that the virus is no longer in her body.
As she explained in the aforementioned media, she was infected with coronavirus last March 2020, when the whole country was shocked by its unstoppable advance, but the tinnitus problem appeared months later, in September, and seems to be far from disappearing from her life.
"I suffered from insomnia for three months, it is exasperating," says the woman, who currently lives in the coastal town of Castelldefels, near Barcelona. To make matters worse, she also has a broken voice due to dysphonia, another of the afflictions left behind by the virus. These problems have led her to ask for sick leave, given the impossibility of fulfilling her obligations.
"I am a philologist and in one year I have only read one book. It's very frustrating, I don't retain what I read," she says. She defines herself as a compulsive reader and acknowledges that another ailment coupled with the one she already has is hyperacusis. "Any noise bothers me a lot more, especially in closed places, a ringing phone, a screaming child, people talking, the sound of a train; you need everything to stop," she explains.
Unfortunately, these problems can end in the worst way, as happened recently in the United States. There, the owner of a chain of restaurants, Kent Taylor, was suffering from various sequelae of COVID-19, including tinnitus, and finally decided to take his own life. The suffering had become unbearable, and Silvia herself acknowledges that she can understand it because "there comes a time when it becomes impossible to stand."
"The number of patients has doubled since the pandemic began," says the otolaryngologist, Guillermo Plaza, who practices at the hospital in Fuenlabrada. The expert acknowledges that there is a relationship between COVID-19 and tinnitus, but explains that a large percentage of the patients had developed it due to a situation of stress caused by the pandemic, and only a small proportion had also been infected with the virus.
It is also true that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recognize tinnitus as a symptom of COVID-19 at this time, unlike the UK health agencies. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of International Audiology claims that 15% of adults infected with coronavirus had symptoms of tinnitus, although it is unclear whether they were directly related to the infection or to stress.
"We have nothing at all, no medication. We can only wait for more research on different types of persistent COVID," Silvia regrets, without expecting a solution in the short term.
[This is a translation of the original article "La secuela que deja el coronavirus y te hace la vida imposible: 'Es desesperante'" published in espanadiario.net]