Lyme disease triggers vertigo and hearing loss

woman with lyme disease and vertigo sitting and holding head

Vertigo (spinning sensation or feeling off balance) and hearing loss have been reported in several studies as symptoms of Lyme disease. One study found 4 out of 27 patients with neurologic Lyme disease experienced hearing loss.¹ Vertigo was reported in 5 out of 8 Lyme disease patients (62.5%) by Selmani et al.² Additionally, investigators suggest that vertigo can be the predominant symptom in patients with confirmed Lyme disease -- its symptoms resembling neuronitis vestibularis in the acute stage.³

 

A recently published study by Sowula and colleagues provides further evidence that Lyme disease can trigger vertigo and hearing loss. In their article “Vertigo as one of the symptoms of Lyme disease,” the authors examine the frequency of vertigo symptoms and potential labyrinth damage in patients with diagnosed Lyme disease.4

The study included 38 patients (ages 20 to 77) with Lyme disease, who were hospitalized at University Hospital in Krakow, Poland, between 2018 and 2019, due to vertigo or dizziness.

“One alleged group of diseases which can trigger vertigo involves infectious diseases of the nervous system,” the authors explain.

“Many pathogens are said to be in part responsible for inflammation; among them are spirochetes of Borrelia [the causative agent of Lyme disease] as well as other pathogens transmitted by ticks.”

The study found:

  • 76% of the Lyme disease patients reported vertigo (54% of them were women compared to 22% of men);
  • Hearing loss and tinnitus were symptoms which frequently accompanied vertigo;
  • 1 in 3 patients experienced sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), which was bilateral in 2 individuals and presented as sudden deafness in 2 other individuals. The hearing loss was significant for high frequency hearing loss but not low frequency hearing loss;
  • Tinnitus was reported in 3 out of 5 of the Lyme disease patients, the majority of whom experienced high frequency tinnitus.

“Increasingly, tick-borne illnesses [such as Lyme disease] are a potential cause of neurological symptoms reported by patients, including hearing loss, tinnitus, ataxia and vertigo.”

The authors conclude:

“It [vertigo] is frequently connected with labyrinth damage and hearing-organ impairment, which suggests that in the course of this disease the inner ear or nerve VIII is dysfunctional … Antibiotic therapy is effective in reducing otoneurological symptoms.”4

References:
  1. Logigian EL, Kaplan RF, Steere AC. Chronic neurologic manifestations of Lyme disease. N Engl J Med. Nov 22 1990;323(21):1438-44. doi:10.1056/NEJM199011223232102
  2. Selmani, Z.; Pyykkö, I. Cochlear and vestibular functional study in patients with sudden deafness an Lyme disease. IJOHNS 2014,3, 46–50.
  3. Ishizaki, H.; Pyykkö, I.; Nozue, M. Neuroborreliosis in the etiology of vestibular neuronitis. Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1993, 503,
    67–69.
  4. Sowula K, Szaleniec J, Dworak M, et al. Vertigo as One of the Symptoms of Lyme Disease. J Clin Med. Jun 25 2021;10(13)doi:10.3390/jcm10132814


26 Replies to "Lyme disease triggers vertigo and hearing loss"

  • Adam Wheeler
    11/04/2022 (3:59 pm)
    Reply

    In May 2019 I fell a little ill in The Canary Islands, headache and feeling unwell for a day or two. On my way back home to Iceland a few days later I lost all sense of balance for about two weeks. The doctors put me through all kinds of tests finding nothing and about two weeks later I was ok. At the time I discovered a very suspicious rash, with a distinct bullseye and out ring that slowly went outward to about 3-4 cm(small for Lyme I think). Since then I´ve had strange symptoms but not very serious, little bad knees, eye floaters, knocking in my ear and loosing balance again for a few days.
    Forward to this summer, it started with a searing headache in my left temple, then numbness in my right foot and now I´m tingling non stop in both feet, right arm, all face, tongue and throat and feeling like my breathing is laboured and tight.
    Is it possible, although my rash was smaller than what is normal and the Canaries not really known for Ticks and Lyme disease although there have been reported a few cases, that I have Lyme disease?Best regards
    Adam

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      11/06/2022 (12:52 pm)
      Reply

      It is particularly important to rule out other illnesses if the exposure is less likely and the rashes are under 2 inches in diameter. I have patients who were infected with tick borne illness from somewhere else that they suspected. I also have patients who were infected with Lyme disease at some other place at some other time.

      • Adam Wheeler
        11/06/2022 (12:56 pm)
        Reply

        Thank you for your response 🙂
        The doctors here are in the process of ruling out other illnesses as well as Lyme disease.

  • Melanie Leigh
    10/16/2022 (10:37 pm)
    Reply

    The only thing I have found so far to help with the Lyme dizziness/vertigo is to move slowly and take ‘Loratadine’. Walk carefully and when I lie down my head swims for a few seconds. I am 74 and have had Lyme for 7 years. Took 3 rounds of antibiotic, but the symptoms remain in a lesser form.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      10/17/2022 (6:49 pm)
      Reply

      I have patients with similar dizziness due to autonomic problems related to Lyme disease. The dizziness can be worse with lying down or changing position quickly. It typically does not last so long. I have them see other doctors. If they are still ill, I have patients who have done well with retreatment.

  • Karl
    09/26/2022 (10:11 pm)
    Reply

    I have been dealing with Lyme for about 5 years and go through vertigo about once every 4 to 6 months lasting about 3 weeks at the worst all dr’s say is everything looks fine I bring up Lyme disease and they act like it’s a rumor

  • Mary P
    09/02/2022 (1:51 am)
    Reply

    I have not been diagnosed yet. Because of my vertigo dizziness nausea, spins, sweats and severe fatigue that’s progressively gotten worse…my doctor tested for Lyme and it was negative. But other labs showed I’m B12 and Iron deficient + Low Hemoglobin. She referred me to an ENT, they did an audiogram then told me I was fine and dismissed my tick bite. I now have to come out of pocket to get more testing. My PCP does give me a monthly prescription of meclizine and Zofran which is the only thing that gets me through the day when I have an episode. It’s been 4 years and have to be my own advocate.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      09/02/2022 (8:32 am)
      Reply

      I find the tests for tick borne disease not as reliable for my patients as I would like. I often rely on other doctors to rule out other diseases as you have done. I have patients with tick borne disease who have done well with antibiotic treatment who never tested positive.

  • Michelle Kaufman
    07/01/2022 (10:49 am)
    Reply

    After a year of various tests trying to figure out why, in the middle of the night, every night I would have repeated surges of tingling starting at my feet going up through my hands along with heart palpitations, I recently tested positive for Lyme. A test done last year came back negative. I also discovered I have a gene called Lp(a) which is Hypercholesterolemia – so I have a higher risk for heart attacks & strokes, & my blood clots more. I’m on antibiotics now but the doctor wants me to go on Plaquenil. My cardiologist who’s following my lipids & has put me on a statin, doesn’t think I should go in this drug, so what can I do? Another option is Low Dose Immunotherapy. The antibiotics are not doing anything & the daily effects of Lyme (ringing in the ears, etc.). The medication I’m on to suppress the “surges” works for the most part (Nortriptylene & Diltiazem), but I’m trying to find the root cause, get treatment & get back to normal! What are my options that are safe?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      07/01/2022 (5:25 pm)
      Reply

      You have done a good job of describing how complex can be. I suggest that my patients see more than one doctor to weigh the various treatment options. I am unable to address the options over this post.

  • Brenda
    06/02/2022 (12:15 pm)
    Reply

    Hi, I’ve haven’t been diagnosed with Lyme yet but I have all the symptoms, especially tinnitus, dizziness, muscle fatigue. Also, last 3 brain MRIs show white matter not associated with MS. About a year ago one of my Lyme titors were positive but the others were negative, so they said I didn’t have it.

    I was bitten by a tick when I was a child a long time ago. It was actually inbedded in my skin.

    Is it possible, I could have it and not be diagnosed from 50 years ago?

    Appreciate your opinion

    • Ren
      06/03/2022 (7:34 am)
      Reply

      Yes , latent infections can emerge later in life . Your personal immune was handling it , mostly probably not completely though . Induced for mental and physical trauma and other illnesses especially C… Lyme can also be the root cause for white matter , but your Neuro willlabel you with MS. Conventional cdc Lyme testing is NOT reliable . Soooo many including myself only had one band on a Western blot . Again, bad testing , bad suggestive guide lines and unknowledgeable MD’s. Find a Lyme literate MDfor specialized testing

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      06/04/2022 (4:50 pm)
      Reply

      I have seen cases of Lyme disease who have been ill for decades before being diagnosed. I find the white spots that were once thought to be MS can turn out to be from Lyme or another illness.

  • SaraBeth Yassin
    05/30/2022 (10:37 am)
    Reply

    I had vertigo the whole 3 years I had full blown Lyme. I had an MRI and I have damage in my left ear, most likely due to Lyme Disease.

  • Brunina reilley
    05/30/2022 (10:16 am)
    Reply

    I get my ears candeled every few months and it helps with itching in the ears and hearing.

  • Marg
    05/30/2022 (6:28 am)
    Reply

    I have experienced hearing loose as well. Thankfully it’s only happened to one ear.

    • Melissa Chapman
      05/30/2022 (9:19 am)
      Reply

      Me too.. I also have hearing loss in one ear. And I also have experienced vertigo on and off.

  • Kathleen Rhodes
    12/29/2021 (2:02 pm)
    Reply

    Yes. I am still dizzy after treating lyme too
    Dramamine and lorazepam help sometimes.
    Wish I could get it to stop

  • Susan
    11/15/2021 (4:06 pm)
    Reply

    Hi,
    I have Lyme and hearing loss (which could be some thing I inherited, since relatives on both sides have very poor hearing).

    I can not wear my hearing aides, after 2-3 hours I get slightly dizzy and then a massive migraine and have to take two days to recover. I am not prone to migraines.

    My regular ENT sees nothing wrong and an ENT who specializes in dizziness thinks it maybe nerve damage from the lyme.

    Could what I have be the same physical issues as outlined in this blog with different symptoms?

    Thanks

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      11/16/2021 (6:39 am)
      Reply

      Great question. I advise my patients to be carefully worked up for other causes which you certainly have done. I have some patients who have benefited from looking again at Lyme disease and some who have not. Four of 27 neurologic cases in the 1990 NEJM article by Logigian et al had hearing loss but the authors did not indicate whether their antibiotic treatment worked.

  • Agi Frimmel
    10/27/2021 (8:07 am)
    Reply

    I had GK (gammaknife) surgery for an acoustic neuroma in 2016. A few MRIs with gadolinium before and after my radiation. I have been getting dizzier every year since, and now I haven’t been able to sleep for months, and feel like I did when I had Lyme meningitis along with stiff, painful neck. Could antibiotics help? Please advise. I’m miserable. Thx.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      10/27/2021 (9:53 am)
      Reply

      I typically advise my patients to look a second time at Lyme disease. There may be two issues. The acoustic neuroma may not be the whole story. There are often other cluse that help the doctor make a decision.

  • Donnie Kalb
    10/20/2021 (2:11 pm)
    Reply

    I have just started the vertigo and need a Doctor so bad, is there a good doctor in Colorado I can trust ? Will this ever go away?

  • Jerome Roberts
    10/10/2021 (5:23 pm)
    Reply

    I have a family member who has Lyme disease has anyone found a doctor who will help. Seven so far have refused him treatment or even a blood test. Please help> We live in the Richmond Hill area

  • mike
    10/08/2021 (8:20 am)
    Reply

    5 mg valium has helped symptoms for my vertigo and dizziness, been fighting it since 2016. also i have lyme and coinfections. ENT dr says ears are fine.

  • Bobbie Ney
    10/07/2021 (11:05 am)
    Reply

    I still have vertigo after 1 year 3 months of treatment with 4 antibiotics and hydroxychloroquine. Has anyone found anything to stop the vertigo?


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