Tinnitus After COVID-19 Vaccination Reported Among Some Patients

Tinnitus After COVID Vaccine (Photo: Getty Images)

Imagine constantly hearing a sound like “eeeeeeeeeeeeeee” in your ear or ears. That’s what tinnitus can be like.

A Facebook group called “Tinnitus and Hearing Loss/Impairment after COVID vaccination” with over 3.9K members highlights the question that has arisen over the past couple of years: Can tinnitus be a side effect of Covid-19 vaccines?

Tinnitus is the sensation of ringing or other noises in either or both of your ears, assuming you don’t have more than two ears.

Tinnitus occurs when there is no external sound that others can hear.

So, if you are standing next to an answering machine that keeps repeating, “leave a message after the beeeeeeeeep,” or next to a person who’s constantly yelling, “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” that wouldn’t count as tinnitus.

In general, tinnitus is not uncommon, affecting an estimated 15 to 20 percent of people, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Searching PubMed for “tinnitus” and “Covid-19 vaccine” yields a handful of case reports, studies, and literature reviews, such as one published in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery in March 2022 and another in the European Review of Medical and Pharmacological Sciences in June 2022.

One study was a review of medical charts at an otology and otolaryngology practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted by Doris Lin, MD, and Anne Morgan Selleck, MD, both Assistant Professors of Otolaryngology there.

They published this study in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, a respectable, peer-reviewed journal focusing on otolaryngology, the medical specialty covering the ears, nose, and throat.

Tinnitus After COVID-19 (Photo: Aleksej Sarifulin)

This chart review found that out of 1,254 patients, 16 reported tinnitus after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, seven after the Moderna Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, and four after the Janssen vaccine.

These are not huge numbers, and the publication stated, “A correlation cannot be proven with this retrospective study with such few cases.” Essentially, you could say, “Few” about the findings of this study.

Another similar study was conducted at an otolaryngology clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center by Stephen Leong, Bing M. Teh, MBBS, and Ana H. Kim, MD, an Associate Professor at Columbia University.

This study was also published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology.

The research team found that out of 500 patients screened, 61 (14.5%) reported one or more ear or hearing-related symptoms within four weeks of vaccination, including 21 (5.0%) with hearing loss, 26 (6.2%) with tinnitus, 33 (7.9%) with dizziness, and 19 (4.5%) with vertigo.

The frequency of patients reporting hearing loss was comparable to that of the general population, so it is not entirely clear how many of those cases may have been specifically due to vaccination against Covid-19.

If you said, “Few” to the 1,254-patient study, the same would apply to this 500-patient study.

Categorized as Health

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