Updated: Jan 23
I’ve had several queries in this week alone regarding tinnitus and the COVID vaccine. Similar stories, the people have tinnitus already (or developed it around the time they had the vaccine), and they are concerned the tinnitus will get worse in some way if they have a booster.
I’ve done some quick research on this as up to now it’s mainly been anecdotal.
there have been a number of reports via the Yellow Card scheme (for self reporting side effects from medicines) of tinnitus developing after vaccination.
As of November 2021, there were 6,364 UK reports of tinnitus, which is equal to 1 in 8,000 people claiming they have tinnitus as a result of the vaccine.
One study by UOM found that a ‘significant number’ of people had hearing loss after getting COVID (the disease, not the vaccine), and 6.6% developed tinnitus. Another global study estimated 40% of people who had COVID found their tinnitus worsened afterwards.
Another study by Viola et al 2020 of 185 people suggests around 20% of COVID patients got tinnitus after having the disease. A 2021 systematic review of numerous patients said 4.5% of COVID patients had tinnitus after getting the disease.
There are other papers around mentioning tinnitus / COVID case studies but the ones above are the better quality papers I could find. There is very little data on the vaccine and tinnitus together but what there is, is of a good standard.
I feel confident in saying to you that:
Tinnitus is a possible side effect of the vaccine, but it is a low risk of 0.01% (this is the 1 in 8,000 number mentioned earlier)
Tinnitus and hearing loss are now known complications of contracting COVID 19.
The chances of developing tinnitus after getting the virus have been estimated at between 4.5 - 6.6%, and the chances of tinnitus worsening after the virus are much higher at 40%
These are early days still in terms of the research that is out there, but I think we ought to conclude that it is riskier to get the virus than the vaccine if tinnitus is your concern. This is exactly as we would expect, knowing as we do that having a vaccine is like having a very mild dose of whatever the disease is. Quite apart from COVID or COVID vaccines, tinnitus is strongly linked to hearing loss. Tinnitus is a permanent feature for the majority (about 80%) of people with hearing loss. As COVID itself is causing hearing loss, it will also cause more cases of tinnitus in the long term as a side effect of the hearing loss it causes. Vaccination will lower your risk of contracting COVID, harming your hearing and developing tinnitus.
Please remember also that these are not all going to be permanent tinnitus or permanent worsening of tinnitus. As tinnitus is subjective and people can and do habituate to it, these cases are not all going to lead to long term suffering. Having a virus is a stressful event in itself, which can temporarily make tinnitus more noticeable. People may well recover after making the report or taking part in the research.