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]

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. [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.

[bctt tweet=”Study finds 76% of patients with tick-borne diseases have hearing loss and tinnitus. ” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

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.

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

    11/05/2018 (6:35 pm)

    I am currently waiting for lab results for Lyme. I thought I had been tested a long time ago and found out Friday I have never been tested and live in NH and at a campground 6 months out the year. Began vertigo and other symptoms nearly 2 yrs ago and then a rear end car accident the end of 2017. Jan 2018 woke up with sensorineural hearing loss and have tinnitus and severe balance problems but also joint related issues with legs, speech difficulties, left facial and tongue numbness, knee problems periodically, night sweats last year (thought it was menopause) neck and shoulder problems since last year and have been to every kind of Doctor there is and numerous tests/MRI’s and still no proper diagnosis. I just had balance testing and results normal so the 3 diagnosis for Vestibular now ruled out, not neurological after 2 different neurologist; one at MA General in Boston. I am praying its Lyme disease just to finally have a diagnosis and a chance to get better, if its negative I have no idea what to do next.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      11/05/2018 (7:25 pm)

      I am glad you have had such a thorough evaluation. The Lyme disease tests are not as reliable as I would like. Yu may have to use clinical judgment.

      • SHERRY
        11/05/2018 (8:29 pm)

        Thanks for responding,. I was given the Western Blot test. If it comes out negative what would you suggest I ask my Doctor to do, I am at a loss after this test. I have no idea what type of Doctor to seek out next and my Primary care Doctor has not been helpful at all.

        • Dr. Daniel Cameron
          11/05/2018 (11:46 pm)

          Doctors are divided over their approach. You may have to pursue a second opinion. Call my office at 914 666 4665 to see if we can help you. You may also have to see specialists to rule out other illnesses.

    • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
      09/11/2023 (7:23 pm)

      Ladies and gentlemen bit by ticks: Be sure to get serum tested for LB using Western immunoblots in addition to EIA (Elisa) Borrelia burgdoferi antibodies from reliable lab sites such as Quest Diagnostics. The European neuro-Lyme cases described here with headaches and cranial nerve troubles (2, 4, 6 — diplopias; 5, 7 — Bell palsy; 8 — hearing, balance, tinnitus) in Poland are like those we see in New England. Additionally, shoulder drop from 11th cranial nerve, and tongue deviation (12 th nerve) with hoarseness occurred in a few of our neuro Lyme cases. If truly seronegative for LB with these nerve palsies, consider other infections such as neurosyphilis, Q fever (Coxiella) encephalitis, fungi or molds, Herpesviruses, or another viral encephalitis.

  • Debbie M.
    10/16/2018 (11:00 am)

    After a few months of mild vertigo, I lost almost all hearing in one ear, suddenly in 2011. Following my DX of atypical Meniere’s disease, I eventually learned I tested positive for Lyme disease (positive PCR but negative Western blot), borellia miyamotoi, anaplasmosis and chronic form of brucellosis. I have had years of multiple antibiotic and herbal treatments with LLMD’s, including IV rocephin and clindamycin. I still suffer from deafness in one ear with tinnitus in both, that is of a very different quality. I hear whooshing and low electronic sounds in my deaf ear and high pitched ringing in my good ear. Despite long term antibiotic treatment, I have many annoying symptoms that include pain and pressure in my face, teeth, jaw and sinuses. My head has many odd sensations that can be quite frightening. It often feels and sounds as though my head is a short wave radio being tuned or a pressure cooker letting steam out slowly. I just pray that my good ear will not be attacked by this awful disease.

  • Rebecca
    10/13/2018 (11:59 am)

    My husband had Lyme 15 years ago and has just
    Recently suffered bilateral hearing loss with tinnitus and aural pressure. His MRI was clear, tried course or oral abx , 6 weeks of prednisone . No improvement noted. Would be be a candidate
    For IV abx?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      10/14/2018 (12:06 pm)

      Four of 27 patients presenting with chronic neurologic Lyme disease in the 1990 New England Journal of Medicine had hearing problems. The authors did not described the outcome. I would look a second time at a tick borne illness along with your husband’s other specialists to try and find an answer.

  • Linda Braydon
    10/13/2018 (1:10 am)

    It’s pitiful that there are so many of us who cannot Avail ourselves of alternative methods of testing for lack of money.

  • Andrew Martin
    08/10/2018 (6:33 pm)

    I have had neural Lyme Disease since 1997. I was first diagnosed with MS and then was later diagnosed with Transverse Myleitus and MS dx was dropped. Symptoms partially cleared for TM over the course of 2-5 years but I still have some residual symptoms, numbness on face and forehead, sometimes on hand or tips of fingers, toes or shins. Beginning last December I began to experience, first a pop in my right ear followed by fullness and then vertigo and tinnitus with significant hearing loss. Now I have just the tinnitus and hearing loss in the mid and upper range. Could this be a symptom of the neural Lyme or is it something else?

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