Study finds hearing loss and tinnitus common in patients with tick-borne diseases

A new study finds that the majority of patients with tick-borne diseases admitted to an outpatient otolaryngological clinic in Poland suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus. In the article, “Otolaryngological symptoms in patients treated for tick-borne diseases,” Sowula and colleagues from Jagiellonian University in Krakow review the records of 216 patients, ages 18-55, who were evaluated in their clinic for tick-borne diseases between 2014 and 2016. [1]


by Daniel J. Cameron, MD, MPH

In Europe, the most common tick-borne diseases are Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. However, “in recent years the number of infections caused by pathogens from Bartonella, Babesia, Anaplasma, Brucella and other species has also been increasing,” writes Sowula. This study looked at not only the prevalence of otolaryngological symptoms in patients with Lyme disease, but in those with other tick-transmitted illnesses, as well.

According to the authors, three fourths of the 216 patients diagnosed with a tick-borne disease experienced otolaryngological symptoms. “The most common complaint was tinnitus (76.5%) accompanied by vertigo and dizziness (53.7%), headache (39%), and unilateral sensorineural hearing loss (16.7%),” writes Sowula.

The patients also reported symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia (a chronic pain condition affecting the trigeminal nerve in the face), hearing hypersensitivity, facial nerve paralysis, toothaches, tongue paresthesias, and smell hypersensitivity.

Furthermore, the authors found that these patients were frequently infected with Bartonella. “The largest group included patients infected with bacteria of the Bartonella henselae (33.4%) and Bartonella quintana (13%) species,” Sowula states.

A smaller study conducted in the Unites States in 1990 also examined the prevalence of otolaryngological symptoms, specifically in Lyme disease patients. The study, led by Logigian from the Department of Neurology and Medicine at Tufts University of Medicine found that 4 out of 27 patients, ages 35-67, with chronic neurologic Lyme disease presented with hearing loss and tinnitus. [2]

“In all four, the hearing loss was apparent on physical examination, and in the two patients tested, audiometry testing confirmed a mild, high frequency, sensorineural hearing loss,” writes Logigian.

Study finds 76% of patients with tick-borne diseases have hearing loss and tinnitus. Click To Tweet

In both studies, patients’ symptoms improved after treatment with intravenous ceftriaxone. One of the four patients described by Logigian and colleagues continued to have a unilateral hearing loss. When making treatment decisions, Sowula and colleagues considered the presence of Bartonella spp in their patients and suggested a combination of antibiotics. “It also seems that using combined treatment may be helpful (e.g. third-generation cefalosporin + Rifampicin, alternatively fluorochinolone).”



  1. Sowula K, Skladzien J, Szaleniec J, Gawlik J. Otolaryngological symptoms in patients treated for tick-borne diseases. Otolaryngol Pol. 2018;72(1):30-34.
  2. Logigian EL, Kaplan RF, Steere AC. Chronic neurologic manifestations of Lyme disease. N Engl J Med. 1990;323(21):1438-1444.

6 Replies to "Study finds hearing loss and tinnitus common in patients with tick-borne diseases"

  • Karin Van Norstrand
    04/11/2018 (12:16 am)

    Yep, that’s me. Diagnosed with Babesiosis and Lymes. Have been on antibiotics for 5 weeks last summer, and than again for almost 3 weeks earlier this year. Have to cut my hrs at work due to residual symptoms. Ringing in ears started abt 5 weeks ago.

  • J Stirr
    04/11/2018 (4:53 am)

    I was on intravenous ceftriaxone for 11 months and started experiencing tinnitus in my 8th or 9th month of treatment…any explanation???
    I still have tinnitus, headaches/migraines, occasional blurred vision, sharp noise issues however have to watch TV as much higher volume than others in the family, aching teeth/sore jaw and cracked tongue with sensivity issues to heat and spicy food and hyper to smells…
    Willing to be guinea pig to determine why I still have these symptoms after treatment 9 yrs later

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      04/11/2018 (12:48 pm)

      I shared the latest research in my All Things Lyme blog to highlight what we don’t know. There are other antibiotics than IV. It is important to see a doctor to rule out other illnesses if that has not been done.

  • LL
    04/11/2018 (10:30 am)

    Diagnosed with Menieres years before Lyme/Bartonella diagnosis. Tinnitus began decades before that! Had irretractable vertigo and “drop attacks”, which led to two procedures on rt ear to kill the balance nerve (and hearing 🙁 ).
    Hearing aids in both ears now. Still have loud Tinnitus. Lyme in remission after seven years of treatment!

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      04/11/2018 (12:45 pm)

      We need more research in this area. Thanks your sharing your case.

  • Buffie LaRocca
    04/11/2018 (5:55 pm)

    yep…” bilateral meniers” and never ending roaring tinitis. I would like to see if it is realated to all the abx though. Is it the infections or the years of multiple abx that have caused it. I would love more research and to be able to participate in a trial about this. It is my most dibilitating sypmtom for sure. have stopped driving bc of hearing and balance, I could possibly handle the rest of my symptoms and still work, but this put me into disability. I want to solve it and get back to life!!

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