Death of Texas Roadhouse CEO bringing attention to another possible complication of COVID-19

HOUSTON – One year into the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to learn more about its side effects. The so-called “long haulers” have been known to suffer symptoms that range from relatively minor to downright debilitating.

It was the latter for Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of the Texas Roadhouse chain. He took his own life after battling symptoms related to COVID-19, including severe tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a common condition involving ringing or other noises in one or both ears.

Experts say the coronavirus can possibly trigger or exacerbate the problem.

A statement from Kent Taylor’s family and his company said, “Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable.”

Tinnitus usually never goes away, according to Baylor College of Medicine Audiologist Dr. Deyanira Gonzalez, who also suffers from it herself. It’s unclear if it will go away among COVID patients.

“It’s hard for us as specialists to identify if this was something that was pre-existing, if there were other factors such as hearing loss, middle ear infection, noise exposure,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “We have had those people saying that they developed it or have noticed it after the onset of verified COVID.”

However, no matter the cause, she said tinnitus can be horrible.

“For some people, it can be so severe that it can affect their sleeping pattern, it can create stress, it can create depression,” Gonzalez said.

It’s known to impact military members. Taylor had committed to funding a clinical study aimed at helping military men and women with tinnitus.

He was known for that kind of generosity. At the beginning of the pandemic, he donated his entire salary to keep employees from losing paychecks.

He was only 65-years-old.

His story is one reason that Dr. Gonzalez said anyone suffering from this should see a doctor right away.