Can the COVID vaccine cause tinnitus?

By April 26, 2023 COVID-19, Health, Vaccine

We came across several posts circulating on social media stating that people have developed tinnitus after receiving the covid vaccine.

A number of posts also referred to a report by NBC News, an American broadcast television network, titled “Possible links between Covid shots and tinnitus emerge”.

The report by NBC News details that over 16,000 people have filed reports with the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on developing tinnitus following the COVID vaccine.

A Facebook group was also formed comprising such people suffering from tinnitus following the COVID vaccine. This group of people enlisted the help of one Shaowen Bao, an associate professor in the physiology department of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, to investigate the link between the Covid vaccine and tinnitus.


What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is usually described as a ringing sound that is only audible to oneself. The sound does not have an external source and hence is inaudible to others.

While the cause of tinnitus is uncertain, it is often present in people who suffer from some extent of hearing loss. However, tinnitus has also been linked as a potential side effect of certain medications such as antibiotics and anti-cancer medication, especially if taken in large quantities.

Presently, there is no cure for tinnitus although its symptoms can be managed through methods such as sound therapies.


Did the COVID vaccine cause tinnitus?

In a study of 2,575,235 patients, with no prior tinnitus diagnosis, who received the first COVID vaccine, 0.038% of patients had a new diagnosis of tinnitus within 21 days. Further, 0.031% of 1,477,890 patients developed tinnitus after the second dose of the COVID vaccine.

The study also examined the risk of developing tinnitus after receiving other vaccines and concluded that the risk of tinnitus from the COVID vaccine was very low. On the other hand, the risk of tinnitus from other vaccines such as influenza was much higher.

The study concluded that the findings suggest that the first COVID vaccine dose might have provoked an inflammatory response which likely led to tinnitus and further examination of the side effects from mRNA vaccines is required.

While Bao has examined 398 participants as part of his research on the COVID vaccine and tinnitus, his findings have yet to be published. However, he opined that as more people developed tinnitus after the first dose of the COVID vaccine compared with subsequent doses, the COVID vaccine was likely interacting with pre-existing risk factors for tinnitus. Hence, someone with the risk factor is more likely to suffer from tinnitus after the vaccine. Risk factors for tinnitus include age, history of hypertension, and history of myocardial infarction.

However, it is reported that CDC has not found any evidence linking the COVID vaccine and tinnitus although its findings have not been published.

Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) recently released a safety update on the COVID vaccines, including data on the bivalent doses. While there was no mention of tinnitus, it included hearing loss as one of the possible serious adverse effects of the COVID vaccine. Moreover, it highlighted that overall, serious adverse effects from the vaccine were rare.

Hence, while it is well-known that adverse effects from the COVID vaccines are possible, it is inconclusive if the COVID vaccine results in tinnitus, and further investigations are necessary.

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