NEWS

Is Tinnitus a COVID Vaccine Side Effect?

Hearing problems and COVID-19.

 Lara Antal / Verywell

Key Takeaways

  • About one out of 40,000 people vaccinated for COVID-19 have reported tinnitus, or ear ringing, but there is not enough evidence to suggest that it is caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Tinnitus may be triggered by a preexisting condition and/or environmental factors.
  • People who continue to experience tinnitus symptoms after vaccination should report their symptoms to their healthcare provider.

Some people have reported ear ringing, also called tinnitus, after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. However, tinnitus is not officially listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a common vaccine side effect.

Still, tinnitus reports have surfaced:

  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinical trials reported six non-severe tinnitus cases. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later ruled that they were not related to the shot.
  • As of August 2021, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database documented around 9,000 cases of tinnitus after vaccination with any brand.

Peter Gulick, DO, professor of medicine and infectious disease expert at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, tells Verywell that the fear of experiencing tinnitus should not stop you from getting the vaccine. “After giving millions of people a [COVID-19] vaccine, tinnitus is not a red flag that popped up prompting scientists to say, ‘You know, this is kind of a big issue with COVID-19 vaccines,’” he says.

Does the Covid-19 Vaccine Cause Tinnitus?

As of November 2021, around one in 8,000 people in the United Kingdom have reported an onset of tinnitus or worsening tinnitus symptoms after receiving the Covid vaccine. This has led the British Tinnitus Association to label tinnitus as a rare occurring side effect.

While there’s not a single explanation for the small number of tinnitus cases following vaccination, Gulick says a preexisting condition or a history of tinnitus could cause the ear ringing to act up.

“Tinnitus is not very common from COVID-19," he says. "But suppose somebody already has a preexisting problem in the ear. In that case, the virus—or the vaccine—can affect those little hair cells in the cochlea that are responsible for causing ear ringing or a little nerve irritation. Usually, you see tinnitus more often in somebody that's already had the problem. It's unlikely to start happening all of a sudden."

Another researcher believes that in some people, a strong immune system response to the vaccine can lead to neuroinflammation. This inflammatory response, which may include symptoms such as fatigue and mental fogginess, is thought to worsen any existing hearing issues.

Recap

While the connection between tinnitus and the Covid vaccine are not yet understood:

  • The British Tinnitus Association has labeled tinnitus a rare side effect of the vaccine.
  • Gulick notes that ear ringing may be triggered after having the virus or getting the vaccine if you have a history of tinnitus and/or a preexisting ear condition.
  • At least one researcher believes a strong inflammatory response to the vaccine can cause existing hearing issues to worsen.

Worsening Tinnitus Symptoms During the Pandemic

Separate from vaccination status, people who already have tinnitus have seen their condition worsen during the pandemic. In a sample of about 3,100 people from 48 countries, research collected in November 2020 indicated that:

  • About 32% of people with preexisting tinnitus were more irritated by their symptoms as a result of pandemic-driven lifestyle changes.
  • People tended to notice their tinnitus more while socially isolated from others.
  • Dealing with social distancing restrictions worsened the symptoms of tinnitus in 25% of people.
  • About 86% of people with tinnitus reported being less social and 58% were lonelier. People who experienced these feelings were more likely to report that their tinnitus symptoms felt more difficult to deal with during the pandemic.

Another study from August 2020 also showed that people who viewed the pandemic as stressful or nerve-wracking were more likely to report bothersome tinnitus symptoms.

What Should You Do If Your Ears Are Ringing?

If you've experienced tinnitus after vaccination, be sure to let your doctor know. You may also consider logging your symptoms on an app like the CDC's V-safe, which tracks symptoms in real-time.

“Preexisting tinnitus is not a contraindication to getting the vaccine, but if you experience tinnitus after the first dose, and if it’s not going away, or it’s getting worse, then see what a doctor says before you consider your second dose,” Gulick says.

Research on tinnitus as a potential COVID-19 vaccine side effect is limited, so the best thing everyone can do is continue to report any unusual or long-lasting side effects.

"Without data, it's hard to see if tinnitus is going to be something permanent or not because we haven't studied it long enough to know,” Gulick says.

While there’s no official cure for tinnitus, there are treatments available that can help you manage your symptoms. These may include natural remedies, cognitive behavioral therapy, and use of medical devices like hearing aids.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine?

    Common side effects include pain and redness where you got the injection. You may also experience a fever, nausea, and exhaustion.

  • Is tinnitus a symptom of Covid-19?

    As of December 2021, tinnitus is not listed as a common symptom of Covid-19.

  • Can having Covid-19 affect the inner ear?

    Researchers have noted that the Covid-19 infection may lead to inner ear problems. In a study of 10 individuals who experienced hearing loss after having the Covid-19 infection:

    • The hearing loss ranged from mild to severe.
    • Nine out of 10 people also experienced tinnitus.
    • Six out of 10 people experienced vertigo, or a spinning feeling.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

Was this page helpful?
15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About the vaccine adverse event reporting system (vaers).

  2. American Tinnitus Association. Causes.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Possible side effects after getting a covid-19 vaccine.

  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Fact sheet for healthcare providers administering vaccine (vaccination providers).

  5. British Tinnitus Association. Coronavirus vaccines and tinnitus.

  6. Drug Discovery and Development. Researcher: neuroinflammation may be behind tinnitus reports in some covid-19 vaccine recipients.

  7. British Tinnitus Association. Coronavirus vaccines and tinnitus.

  8. Drug Discovery and Development. Researcher: neuroinflammation may be behind tinnitus reports in some covid-19 vaccine recipients.

  9. Beukes EW, Baguley DM, Jacquemin L, et al. Changes in tinnitus experiences during the covid-19 pandemic. Front Public Health. 2020;8:592878. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.592878

  10. Schlee W, Hølleland S, Bulla J, et al. The effect of environmental stressors on tinnitus: a prospective longitudinal study on the impact of the covid-19 pandemic. J Clin Med. 2020;9(9):2756. doi:10.3390/jcm9092756

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. V-safe after vaccination health checker.

  12. Cleveland Clinic. Tinnitus.

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Possible side effects after getting a covid-19 vaccine.

  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of covid-19.

  15. National Institutes of Health. SARS-CoV-2 infection of the inner ear.