Coronavirus Shutdown Exacerbates Tinnitus Symptoms by Quieting World

Unprecedented worldwide shutdown takes toll on tinnitus sufferers as noise levels plummet (Credit: Shutterstock)

Tinnitus related searches have exploded to the maximum possible value on Google Trends since the virus initiated a historic lockdown, shuttering billions inside their homes and taking worldwide ‘noise’ down to levels not observed in modern history. Scientists have recorded a drop in seismic noise (the hum of vibrations in the planet’s crust) which is being attributed to the sudden stop of industrial machinery and moving vehicles.

On March 9th, just as Italy announced the entire country was going into lockdown in an effort to combat the novel coronavirus, worldwide searches trends for ‘ear vibration’ started an uptrend that would eventually take us to the maximum possible search interest value on Google Trends of 100 for the April 12th to April 18th datapoint.

As soon as the United States declared a state of emergency on March 13th, we quickly saw the trend pick up steam as the world quieted and everyone hunkered down in their homes. India’s lockdown came a bit later on March 25th, right when we can see the trend starting to top.

Also in late March, seismologist Stephen Hicks tweeted out a chart showing the reduction in background seismic noise as seen by a seismometer.

It’s not just ‘ear vibration’ that took off as a search term when the world went into lockdown, ‘hum in ear’ also shows the same dramatic uptrend right as the coronavirus lockdown started to quiet the entire planet.

Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of some underlying condition – usually a loss of hearing which prompts people to hear sounds that are not coming from the outside, but rather in their own heads. Usually Tinnitus is known as a tone, but it’s also been described as a humming, vibration, and in some cases, a song that is being played out in a person’s head.

Most sufferers hear these sounds most when it is quiet, with many reporting relief as soon as they step outside or turn on a white noise machine. As the world around us goes into lockdown, it’s no wonder many people are starting to hear sounds that Tinnitus sufferers have been hearing all along, as now everything has become much more quiet.

The term ‘Tinnitus’ itself has not gained much steam recently on Google Trends, but that is likely because people hearing this vibration sound for the first time are not aware of what Tinnitus is itself, and they are just googling the symptom that is plaguing them at the moment. Also terms like ‘tone in ear’ and other tinnitus tone related terms are not showing the same explosive uptrend as the humming and vibration searches.

When the world picks up steam again we will likely see a reduction in the search volume for these terms and seismic background noise go back to the levels we’re used to.