There have been reports of a connection between COVID-19 and tinnitus, as well as reports of a possible connection between COVID-19 vaccines and tinnitus. Let’s take a look at what the studies and reports are saying to see if it’s a valid concern.
Firstly, what is tinnitus?
Most people associate tinnitus with hearing a ringing noise in the ears, however it can be hearing ringing or any other type of noise within the ears that isn’t actually coming from an external noise. The sounds heard might be a buzzing, humming, hissing or even music or singing.
It’s a common condition and it can go away by itself. However, if it becomes bothersome or gets worse you should seek tinnitus treatment in the UK to resolve the issue. There may be a cause for the tinnitus such as an ear infection or build-up of earwax which can be resolved by medical professionals. If this is not the cause, then specialised tinnitus treatments from audiologists can help to alleviate or even eliminate tinnitus symptoms.
Does COVID-19 cause tinnitus?
A study by Anglia Rusking University has found COVID-19 is making tinnitus worse: “New research reveals that tinnitus, a common condition that causes the perception of noise in the ear and head, is being exacerbated by COVID-19. The study, which involved 3,103 participants from 48 countries, found that 40 percent of those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 simultaneously experience a worsening of their tinnitus”.
This study, published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Public Health’ looks at those already suffering with tinnitus and reveals COVID-19 worsened the condition in 40% of the people studied.
But can COVID-19 cause tinnitus in people who have never experienced it before?
Yes, there are reports of people with COVID-19 suffering with tinnitus after they developed other better-known COVID-19 symptoms. This means tinnitus might be caused by COVID-19 but this does not appear as a symptom for days or weeks after the onset of other symptoms.
A systematic review that looked at all the data linking COVID-19 to auditory complications in people who have recovered from the virus, estimated 14.8% of people reported tinnitus.
It’s now listed as a long term effect of coronavirus, also referred to as long COVID.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause tinnitus?
According to Verywell Health “About 0.95% of people vaccinated for COVID-19 have reported tinnitus, or ear ringing, but there is not enough evidence to suggest tinnitus is caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.”
This doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t causing the tinnitus, only there is not enough evidence to support this theory yet and it’s not officially listed as a side effect of the vaccine.
If you have had the vaccine and suffer with tinnitus soon afterwards, then you can report it via the Yellow Card scheme. This will ensure it’s listed as a potential side effect if there are more reports of tinnitus happening post-vaccination.
The British Tinnitus Association states that as on 4th May 2021 “a total of 2,258 reports of tinnitus were made” via the Yellow Card scheme. They go on to say “this means that fewer than 1 in 14,700 people are affected which classifies this side effect as very rare”.
It’s also possible these people already had tinnitus or had suffered in the past.
- Tinnitus is now recognised as a long COVID symptom.
- Existing tinnitus sufferers may find COVID-19 worsens their tinnitus.
- Links between the COVID vaccines and tinnitus appear to be very rare. Whether the vaccine is causing tinnitus in some people is unclear currently, so the best thing is to report any side effects experienced after having a vaccine to the Yellow Card scheme so it is documented and connections can be made.