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. 
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 United 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. 
“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).”
- Sowula K, Skladzien J, Szaleniec J, Gawlik J. Otolaryngological symptoms in patients treated for tick-borne diseases. Otolaryngol Pol. 2018;72(1):30-34.
- Logigian EL, Kaplan RF, Steere AC. Chronic neurologic manifestations of Lyme disease. N Engl J Med. 1990;323(21):1438-1444.
My tinnitus is increasing sharply over past 6-8 months. Diagnosed with Lyme in 2010. This is the least bothersome of my symptoms though. The others are debilitating.
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!!
I ma interested in this myself. Tinnitus started after taking large amounts of iodine, which can act like an antibiotic, it felt triggered by something, a virus. I tracked the onset in my symptoms journal i was taking at the time. I cannot sleep. I havent gone down the lyme, chronic infection route cause i have no money and from what im hearing, i want to avoid any antibiotics at all costs? For fear of intensifying the tinnitus. I feel like the two are linked, tinnitus, and chronic infection/antibiotics. I have also noted a lot of people, after taking thyroid meds, develop tinnitus. I read something about, lymies not being able to tolerate t4? Yet just litsened to a lecture about reverse t3 that makes logical sense, as i was mistakenly brainwashed into the, you gotta clear reverse t3 with t3. Yet its a sign of too much thyroid. Tried going off thyroid meds, nothing, and i mean nothing ive trie dmakes a dent in this damn ringing!
You have demonstrated the difficulty finding a cause of tinnitus.
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!
We need more research in this area. Thanks your sharing your case.
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
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.
I’ve not been diagnosed with Lyme but am sure that’s what I have. I have been living in Maine for 20 years and have been bitten at least 3 times. The ticks were engorged by the time I found them on the back of my leg and one on my back. I did not have a bulls eye rash. Went to the doctors and they put me on doxycycline for a few days. The Lyme tests always came back negative. Before moving to Maine I lived in Connecticut. I remember one summer seeing a an odd rash on my thigh. Thought nothing of it. I was sick all the time with odd headaches, neck pain, blurry vision, etc. Anyway 15 years ago I experienced vertigo, constant sinusitis, TMJ and after having what was a bad virus came down with tinnitus which has persisted for the last 15 years. It started as a hissing and has progressed to other undesirable sounds. I have sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, had tubes put in both ears, had septoplasty, have recently been tested for allergies (allergic to tree pollens, grass, ragweed, mold, dust mites, cockroaches, ). Been receiving allergy shots since last September with no improvement yet. In fact my sysmptoms have worsened. I have insomnia, odd twitches throughout my body, fatigue, anxiety, pain on top of both feet, neck and shoulder pain which started in March after I had some kind of bite on my shin that looked like maybe a spider bite. A red bump. After 2 weeks a small red circle surrounded it. I thought it was a spider bite as I remember driving one day and feeling something bite me. I always tell myself that I live in hell. The tinnitus, insomnia, twitches, odd creepy feelings that run up the back of my head,. Also I remember that at the base of my skull the muscles hurt bad and I just wanted to dig into them and that was followed by an awful headache and numbness on one side of my jaw. I am at a loss…. sometimes I feel as if I could kill myself because the doctors here are not experienced with Lyme and would tell me that I have nothing or MS or Lupus which I’m sure I don’t. I feel for everyone who has tinnitus. Dr. Cameron please help me.
I am equally frustrated by how little we know on tinnitus and hearing loss in Lyme disease. I was happy to write about the findings of the most recent study.
Marlene, you are describing my symptoms to a “T”. How did it turn out for you? I’m about to see a doc soon and will request a blood test. I’m positive it is Lyme having been bit on the back of my neck about 3 months ago. Didn’t think anything of it until the neck pain, which moved to shoulders and then back…then the tinnitus. I hope it worked out for you and you found some relief.
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.