Several weeks ago, we heard from a reader of our syndicated newspaper that he developed tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. If you have never experienced tinnitus, count your blessings. Some people describe the sound as crickets chirping. Other people hear hissing, buzzing, roaring, humming, whistling or whooshing. Whatever the sound, it can be nerve wracking. Many people cannot get a good night’s sleep because of the sounds in their heads. A new study suggests that the coronavirus infects the cells inside the ear and can cause tinnitus. Visitors to this website also describe tinnitus as an adverse reaction of COVID vaccines.
COVID-19 Attacks the Ears:
SARS-CoV-2 causes a wide range of symptoms, including loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, headache, body aches and digestive tract upset. A new study in Communications Medicine, Oct. 29, 2021 shows that the coronavirus also damages our ears. This explains why symptoms such as tinnitus, dizziness and hearing loss can occur after infection.
The authors point out that lots of viruses damage the ears. They include the herpes simplex viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes, the varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox and shingles, the Epstein-Barr virus, the mumps virus, the measles virus, the polio virus, hepatitis viruses, HIV and influenza viruses.
Such viral infections can trigger hearing loss (sensorineural deafness), ringing in the ears, vertigo and balance disorders. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that COVID can also impact hearing and balance. It probably does this through a direct viral effect and/or an indirect inflammatory process. The bottom line: The researchers recommend that doctors pay close attention to the possibility of hearing loss, ringing in the ears or balance disturbances in COVID patients.
Tinnitus as an Adverse Reaction of COVID Vaccines:
In addition, some COVID vaccines also seem to affect the ears. A number of readers have reported their experiences with this unsettling side effect.
Q. I am wondering if you have any information about the possibility of COVID vaccinations causing tinnitus. My son developed a mild case after his first injection, which was exacerbated considerably by his second injection.
Several other people I know had the same adverse reaction to COVID vaccines. After my second booster, I developed mild hearing loss.
I have had acupuncture, which has been somewhat helpful. Are there other avenues to pursue for relief? I worry about young children developing hearing losses.
A. Researchers have reported that tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can occur as an adverse reaction to COVID vaccines (Audiology Research, June 2022). They consider this a rare side effect, though it is not clear how scientists determine the frequency.
As the authors note,
“There is a lack of systematization and standardization in the collection of clinical information, as well as in patient management.”
To translate that into English, studies have not been well organized to evaluate such complications.
Tinnitus in Long COVID:
People who were infected with the virus and are now experiencing Long COVID often count tinnitus among their symptoms (Frontiers in Neurology, April 25, 2022). A German survey of people nearly a year after infection found that 30 percent reported tinnitus as part of their clinical picture, along with dizziness.
Treatment is tricky, though. Some clinicians offer repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, June 7, 2022).
Egyptian researchers report that a simple breathing technique—bee humming—can be effective (Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, June 3, 2022). This is a pranayama yoga approach that’s described online.
Moderna May Trigger Tinnitus as an Adverse Reaction to COVID Vaccines:
Q. I received the Moderna vaccine. After the second shot, I developed tinnitus that has lasted 5 weeks (so far). I haven’t found much about this side effect online in medical reports.
I did find a forum with other people complaining of tinnitus that has not gone away. Have you heard of this? Can you give me some hope that it will go away in time?
Not long after that question we received dozens more. This is typical of many others:
Q. I received the COVID vaccine a few weeks ago. Ever since then I’ve had tinnitus in my ears. Is this a possible side effect? Will it go away?
A. As far as we can tell, the clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines did not reveal tinnitus (ringing in the ears) as an adverse reaction of COVID Vaccines. We could find no studies demonstrating a link between COVID vaccines and an increased risk of tinnitus. There are, however, some reports in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database. Quite a few readers have reported tinnitus following their vaccinations, so we don’t think it is coincidental.
Another reader wrote about tinnitus as an adverse reaction of COVID vaccines:
“My wife suddenly developed a severe case of tinnitus in her left ear within two days of her second Pfizer vaccine. She lost most of her hearing as well, but it returned after her ENT doctor prescribed prednisone for one week. The tinnitus remains after six weeks with no end in sight. We would never know about this side effect (or others) but for publications like yours.”
COVID-19 infection itself has been associated with tinnitus (International Journal of Audiology, March 22, 2021). In addition, pandemic lockdowns made it harder for some people with tinnitus to get support (Frontiers in Public Health, Nov. 5, 2020).
We heard recently from one reader who developed tinnitus following COVID infection. This person is nervous about being vaccinated for fear that the tinnitus might get worse.
Will COVID Vaccine Make Tinnitus Worse?
Q. I caught COVID in November 2020 and immediately developed tinnitus. In a couple of your newspaper articles, you wrote about tinnitus and the vaccine.
My doctor has advised me to wait to get the vaccine because my body is so inflamed. Frankly, I’m petrified to get it for fear it will make the tinnitus worse. It’s already pretty bad and has been constant for over seven months.
Have you had any reports where the vaccine actually improves tinnitus? There are some reports that the vaccine improves long COVID symptoms.
A. Post-COVID syndrome (PCS, aka long COVID) can include symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste, joint or muscle pain and headache. A report in the International Journal of Audiology (Dec. 2020) describes persistent hearing problems and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) in more than 10 percent of long-haulers like you. We have also heard from people who developed tinnitus for the first time or experienced more intense symptoms after getting a COVID vaccine.
On the other hand, there is this story from a reader:
“Your comments about the COVID-19 vaccines triggering tinnitus hit home but in the opposite direction. I have had tinnitus for years and it has gotten worse as I get older. After my second Moderna shot, my tinnitus actually diminished and is no longer affecting my sleep.”
There is a lot we don’t yet understand about PCS. Preliminary survey data suggest that the mRNA vaccines might improve long-COVID symptoms. More research will be needed to confirm this observation, though.
Additional Stories of Tinnitus as an Adverse Reaction of COVID Vaccines:
Ting reports a ringing reaction to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine:
“After first BioNTech vaccination shot I have suffered tinnitus up to now for 25 days and seems no stop-signals. I never had tinnitus before the shot.”
Paul says his tinnitus got worse after the shot:
“My preexisting tinnitus was not that noticeable prior to COVID vaccine but shortly after first shot increased 10x requiring sleeping medication to sleep. Roughly 90 days afterward it has started to subside to milder pre-vaccine levels. Holding out hope as time passes that this situation will simmer down. Did not take second shot, fearing permanent damage.”
Pam couldn’t figure out where the crickets were hiding:
“My husband and I thought it must be external since we were both experiencing this. We thought that it was an electrical noise, so we turned off the main breaker to the house to see if it would resolve, but it did not. We thought it may be crickets and searched everywhere. It has been very frustrating for us to locate the source until we saw your article!”
“My last shot of the Pfizer vaccine was two weeks ago. I had COVID in June 2020, and it caused some ringing in my ears. I never connected it to COVID, though.
“Then after each injection I got more ringing in my ears. It’s now worse than ever. Will it ever go away? I hope it is just temporary and will resolve with time.”
The possibility of tinnitus as a rare vaccine side effect should not discourage people from getting their shots. As our reader above noted, COVID infections themselves can cause tinnitus.
One study found that 6.6 percent of hospitalized patients developed this condition (International Journal of Audiology, online July 31, 2020). A meta-analysis of 24 studies in the same journal suggests that this complication may be as high as 15%.
The British Tinnitus Society Offers this Overview:
“Do the coronavirus vaccines cause tinnitus or make it worse?
“In the trials prior to release, no mention was made of the onset of tinnitus or worsening tinnitus for either vaccine.
“The safety update report of 21 April 2021 from the MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency] estimates that 33.3 million first doses of the vaccines had been given, and around 11.2 million second doses.
“A total of 205,967 Yellow Cards reporting adverse effects have been received.
“A total of 2,258 reports of tinnitus were made.”
“This means that fewer than 1 in 14,700 people are affected which classifies this side effect as ‘very rare’”
The yellow cards are a way the British public can report an adverse reacti0n of COVID vaccines or any other drug for that matter. Even if tinnitus is classified as very rare, it still can be extremely disturbing.
Only time will tell if the ringing will fade after infection from the virus or after vaccination. Share your story in the comment section below.