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COVID 19 Vaccine & Tinnitus Link

In our tinnitus support group, the link between COVID 19 vaccine and tinnitus has been discussed. As we move into the Autumn vaccination time, and a private vaccine is about to be launched, it's a good time to review this topic.

COVID vaccines have been linked to tinnitus, this is true. It's still considered to be a rare side effect, but tinnitus has arisen in great enough numbers post-vaccination to show the link.

The mechanism is uncertain, so as far as I can gather we still don't know if it's an immunological issue, inflammation, blood flow/oxygen deficit, cell transport changes or something else. Many medicines - NSAIDS, loop diuretics, platin chemotherapy, mycin antibiotics, among others - can cause damage to hearing, with different mechanisms as the root cause. Hearing damage can cause tinnitus, so these medicines also cause tinnitus.

Vaccines are usually a weakened form of a virus, that is to say that you are receiving a small/weak dose of the illness itself. MRNA vaccines are slightly different, they produce a small portion of the viral particle and set it off replicating. Both types cause our body to make antibodies to the viral component.

In either type, what you are doing is introducing viral particles to your body in a controlled manner. The side effects of the virus may also arise from having the vaccine, in the same way a flu vaccine might give you some soreness and sniffles. If the virus causes hearing damage and tinnitus (there are ~4000 viruses that are known to do this) then you may get tinnitus from the vaccine. The important point here is that a) the vaccine generally causes mild symptoms and b) vaccines are usually much less likely to cause an effect than the virus itself.

COVID has been proven to cause hearing damage and tinnitus, among other things. It is a nasty virus. It's not just the vaccine that increases your risk of tinnitus, it is the virus that does that, or our body's response to it.

We all have a choice to make regarding the vaccine, and in doing so we should think about our risk factors. Risk is different for different people because we have individual factors. Risk is also different depending on the disease itself. The chance of contracting Yellow Fever if you're not leaving Yorkshire, for instance, is so small that the side-effects (and cost) of the Yellow Fever vaccine are not worth risking.

COVID 19, on the other hand, is everywhere. Pretty much everyone on the planet has had it now, whether they know it or not. The effects of this virus include hearing loss and tinnitus.

If the mechanism for this hearing damage is due to reduced blood flow/reduced oxygenation of the inner ear, then having the COVID illness for a week (with a lingering chest infection and wheezing) is much more likely to produce tinnitus than the effect of the vaccine, where one feels a bit off-colour for a day.

So, when we weigh up our individual risk/benefit factors, it's important to take into account how likely we are to get COVID (very) and how the vaccine effects are likely to play out versus the virus effects.

One thing I have heard said is that "I can take my chances on getting COVID, but I don't want to deliberately take the vaccine because then it's my own fault". I understand this point of view, it would be unpleasant to feel responsible for doing damage to yourself. However, the fact that you were susceptible to getting that effect from the vaccine almost certainly means you would be susceptible to getting the same effect from the virus. And the virus is far more likely to have a much greater negative effect.

Tinnitus is so common, and so many people are destined to get it as their inner ear ages. We all had a "first day" where we noticed it for the first time. The vaccine may simply have brought it forward, it may have been the last factor that tipped you over the threshold. If it happened as a side effect of protecting yourself against a rather nasty illness, it would be a shame if people thought badly about that choice, because it was still a sensible choice.

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