Jarach CM, Lugo A, Stival C, Bosetti C, Amerio A, Cavalieri d'Oro L, Iacoviello L, Odone A, Stuckler D, Zucchi A, van den Brandt P, Garavello W, Cederroth CR, Schlee W, Gallus S, LOST in Lombardia Study Investigators
Front Neurol 13 (-) 838291 [2022-03-07; online 2022-03-07]
Although a direct relationship between tinnitus or hearing difficulties and COVID-19 has been suggested, current literature provides inconsistent results, and no research has been undertaken in older adults. In November 2020, we conducted the LOST in Lombardia survey, a telephone-based cross-sectional study on a sample of 4,400 individuals representative of the general population aged ≥65 years from Lombardy region, Northern Italy. Individuals with diagnosed tinnitus and/or hearing loss were asked whether their conditions had improved or deteriorated in 2020 compared to 2019. Overall, 8.1% of older adults reported a diagnosis of tinnitus and 10.5% of hearing loss. In 2020 compared to 2019, among individuals with tinnitus, those with increasing severity (5.0%) were similar to those decreasing it (5.3%). Among individuals with hearing loss, more people reported an increase (13.6%) than a decrease (3.2%) in their disease severity. No individual with a diagnosis in 2020 of tinnitus (n = 6) or hearing loss (n = 13) had COVID-19. The incidence of tinnitus was lower in 2020 (rate: 14.8 per 10,000 person-years) than in previous years (rate in 1990-2019: 36.0 per 10,000 person-years; p = 0.026). There was no change in the incidence of hearing loss (p = 0.134). In this large representative sample of older adults, on average neither COVID-19 confinement nor SARS-CoV-2 infection appeared to increase the severity or incidence of tinnitus. The increased severity of hearing difficulties may totally or partially be explained by physiologic deterioration of the condition, or by a misperception due to the use of face-masks.