Did Covid-19-Induced Tinnitus Drive A Beloved Restaurant Chain CEO To Suicide?


In 1993, Kent Taylor launched Texas Roadhouse, a legendary steak restaurant with over 600 locations throughout the U.S. On March 18, Taylor committed suicide. Taylor had been battling long-term COVID-19-related symptoms, or so-called “long haul” symptoms. Apparently, the condition that most drove Taylor to suicide was tinnitus, a loud phantom ringing or other auditory disturbance in the ears that’s perceptible only to the person experiencing it. 

Taylor’s tinnitus was described as severe and his death shines light on COVID-associated tinnitus

A study from August 2020, published in the International Journal of Audiology, along with a handful of other studies, documented the phenomenon of developing tinnitus as a result of becoming infected with COVID. Still, according to the Long Island, NY-based news site, DailyVoice.com, medical officials say there is no conclusive evidence to date that acquiring COVID-19 causes tinnitus. 

Researchers and audiologists stress the need for more widespread support for tinnitus sufferers, especially since the severity of the condition—estimated to affect nearly a third of the U.S. population to some degree—has become more severe in many people because of the pandemic. 

Tinnitus is exacerbated by stress. And the stress caused by the pandemic’s forced social isolation as well as chronic worrying and anxiety has likely contributed to the condition. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the restaurant chain said, per DailyVoice.com, “Kent leaves an unmatched legacy as a people-first leader, which is why he often said that Texas Roadhouse was a people company that just happened to serve steaks.” 

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Kent Taylor,” added Greg Moore, the restaurant’s Lead Director Greg Moore in a separate, joint statement with the company’s board of directors. Moore said of Taylor that he “dedicated himself to building it into a legendary experience for ‘Roadies’ and restaurant guests alike. 

As proof of this, Moore pointed to the fact that Taylor forfeited his compensation package during the pandemic to help support his frontline workers. “This selfless act was no surprise to anyone who knew Kent and his strong belief in servant leadership,” said Moore, per DailyVoice.com

“He was without a doubt, a people-first leader. His entrepreneurial spirit will live on in the company he built, the projects he supported, and the lives he touched,” added Moore in the statement, per DailyVoice.com

Texas Roadhouse, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, also operated 10 steakhouses internationally. Louisville Mayor, Greg Fischer, per DailyVoice.com wrote on Twitter, per DailyVoice.com, “Louisville lost a much loved and one-of-a-kind citizen. … Kent’s kind and generous spirit was his constant driving force whether it was quietly helping a friend or building one of America’s great companies in @texasroadhouse.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. For more tinnitus articles, including those that discuss different methods to mitigate tinnitus, click here.

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