By Brooke Rogers

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The death of Texas Roadhouse Founder and CEO Kent Taylor is raising awareness about the potential long-term effects of COVID-19.

Texas Roadhouse founder and CEO Kent Taylor (Credit: Texas Roadhouse)

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Taylor died by suicide last week after suffering from unbearable symptoms related to the virus, according to his family and company. That included severe tinnitus, a common condition involving ringing or noises in the ear – one that actor William Shatner knows well.

“The harsh reality of tinnitus is that it has robbed silence from nearly 12 million Americans,” Shatner said in a video supporting the American Tinnitis Association. “There were days when I didn’t know if I would survive the agony, I was so tormented by the screeching in my head.”

Dr. Edward Lobarinas, an assistant professor at UT Dallas and an expert on tinnitus, said, “It is rare, but that can happen, where the symptoms of tinnitus become so unmanageable, that people take extreme measures.”

He said it’s a very serious condition and an invisible one.

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“So when you have this awful, unmanageable phantom sensation, this incessant ringing, nobody else sees it. So oftentimes people don’t understand how severe it is or may not be sympathetic or understanding to how debilitating it is.”

Scientists in the United Kingdom suggest there may be a strong link between COVID-19 and hearing issues. They identified symptoms – including ringing in the ear – in about 30% of cases. Dr. Lobarinas said the connection is still premature, but he won’t be surprised.

“My expectation is that you’ll see those numbers creep up,” he said.

And he hopes those who have it know that there are treatment options.

“You don’t have to struggle with tinnitus alone. There’s help out there.”

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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day in English and in Spanish at 800.273.8255.