Family says COVID-caused tinnitus contributed to Texas Roadhouse CEO’s suicide. Here’s what we know about the link

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This photo provided by restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse shows company founder and CEO Kent Taylor. Taylor has died, according to the family and company on Sunday, March 21, 2021. (Ron Bath/Texas Roadhouse via AP)

(NEXSTAR) – Tinnitus: It’s a ringing in the ears that can be ceaseless, making it difficult to go about daily activities, and it’s cited as one of the reasons Texas Roadhouse CEO Kent Taylor took his own life last week.

Taylor’s family said in a statement to the Associated Press that the business executive “took his own life” after “a battle with post-Covid related symptoms, including severe tinnitus.”

“Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable,” the statement said.

Tinnitus can present in a myriad of ways, from clicking and pulsing sounds, to low- and high-pitched ringing, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s diagnosed by a variety of tests, including audiological exams, movement, imaging and labs.

Treatment for tinnitus varies based on whether it’s the result of an underlying health condition. Common treatments include earwax removal, hearing aids and medication changes, the Mayo Clinic said.

It’s not known yet how common tinnitus is as a symptom of COVID-19, but earlier case studies have shown a link between the virus and the ailment.

In one case study, published in the British journal BMJ, a 45-year-old man with no history of auditory issues presented tinnitus and sudden hearing loss while being treated for COVID-19. The man was treated with steroids, which resulted in partial return of his hearing.

According to the study, “There are only a few reported cases of hearing loss following COVID-19.”

In another incident, reported in the journal PMC, a 35-year-old patient in Qatar reported experiencing hearing loss and tinnitus while suffering from COVID-19 — symptoms which remained after the infection abated.

“Currently, there is little evidence published connecting novel coronavirus and tinnitus directly,” the case study said. “But according to the American Tinnitus Association, preexisting behavioral conditions make it more likely for patients to experience tinnitus due to the stress and depression associated with social isolation and infection avoidance.”

The study called for further research into the link between COVID-19 and tinnitus, and the ailment generally — research which Kent Taylor himself was helping to fund before his death.

“In true Kent fashion, he always found a silver lining to help others,” his family said in the aforementioned statement. “Most recently, he committed to fund a clinical study to help members of the military who also suffer with tinnitus.”

There is no cure for tinnitus, though there are multiple treatment options.

If you are experiencing tinnitus, consult with your physician.

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