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"

    04/14/2019 (7:26 pm)

    My husband was treated for 18 months with various different ABX and most of the Lyme symptoms are gone. I’m afraid that the antibiotics have wiped out his gut flora and now he has SIBO ( small intestine bacterial overgrowth) (Methane dominant) and is having a devil of a time trying to deal with that. It is very difficult to get rid of… he has been on Xifaxan and neomycin. I guess that the bacteria that resides in the colon has made its way up to the small intestine and I don’t know how to fix it.

  • Eric
    03/02/2019 (5:48 pm)

    Dr. Thanks for input. My question is simple. How long can one be on antibiotics until its harmful or you create a resistant strand against bacteria. My concern is if I get sick from a cold and need additional antibiotics for the cold or flu.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      03/02/2019 (8:35 pm)

      There are always risks with longer treatments. There are also risks of remaining ill without treatment. I have to weight each each of these risks with each patient. It is not clear that tick borne infections acquire resistance with antibiotics.

      We try not to use antibiotics needlessly for animals and humans to prevent resistant bacteria as a public health measure. Any new infection in future e.g. pneumonia is typically from someone else. Your previous antibiotics can typically be used again.

  • Susan Buchholz
    03/01/2019 (12:33 am)

    I found out today that I have lost all hearing I right ear. I have most of all that different ones have spoke about in blog. CAN SILVER COLLITAL or Wild oregano help. CAN hearing loss be reversed if you kill off the bugs.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      03/01/2019 (2:09 am)

      I commonly run into hearing loss and tinnitus in my practice. I have seen improvements with antibiotic treatment. I have not used silver or wild oregano.

    01/19/2019 (11:21 pm)

    In June of 2018 I stared getting some mild tinnitus and dizziness. After runnning a marathon type race through the mountains in September I got the flu for 5 days. After that my symptoms spiraled out of control to the point of near death. I tested negative for lyme and positive for babesia. I begged a doc to treatment with antis and was hospitalized for a week. I did two weeks on ceftriaxone and am on my second month of doxy. I am also just starting a 10 day course for babeisa (pills and liquid). Many things have improved but the dizziness, head pressure, and loud non-stop tinnitus really have not have not. I’m worried it could be something else but all my tests, including a PET, have come back negative. I have had elevated ESR and CRP for months although they have come down. I also have some intermittent focal slowing in my EEG. I am a 40 year old male. Any thoughts?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      01/20/2019 (1:13 am)

      I am not so sure 10 days is so effective if started weeks or months after onset. The 10 day protocol for Babesia enrolled patients early in their illness. They have not yet studied the ideal length of time for Babesia. I often need to treat Babesia longer for patients who are ill longer. Two weeks of intravenous ceftriaxone was not as good as four weeks in the initially Logigian articles for neurologic Lyme disease. I have a few patients with a high ESR. The number drops as they improve. I am glad you looked into other illnesses.

    • Mike
      07/24/2019 (11:19 am)

      Keep up the treatment. You will have symptoms come and go for years. You have to find the right balance and keep the disease under control so your body can defend itself.

    • PJ M.
      10/20/2019 (9:09 am)

      I have BB, babesia and RMSF same symptoms but additional too. Babesia needs treating with anti malarials, anti parasitics.

  • Mark
    12/28/2018 (3:54 pm)

    From my personal experience Lyme associated diseases definitely can effect hearing. I’ve been a musician and avid audiophile for many decades and spent years “training” my ears to be able to hear subtle differences. Since getting bitten by a tick, developing a bullseye rash and getting very ill I have experienced painful distortion triggered by loud high pitched sounds. I had never experienced anything like this until getting Lyme disease. After extensive treatment for Lyme and associated diseases my sensitivity to loud high pitched sound has substantially abated. I am thankful that there are SOME doctors with an understanding of how devastating Lyme and associated diseases can be.

    • Rebecca
      01/13/2020 (8:08 pm)

      Mark – I have chronic Lyme due to a lack of proper treatment when I received the tick bite. I have an honors degree in classical guitar. I have been experiencing the same problems. For a while I almost totally lost my musicality, which gave me complete anguish since I have been a musician as long as I can remember. I could not process the information correctly to understand more complex musical ideas, although I went through advance music theory training and even played in a microtonal chamber ensemble. I finally got back a positive WB test and have been on long-term AB. I keep having to go back on the AB. They helped me with the brain problems related to music but I am still far from my old self.

    • Sara King
      02/15/2021 (11:43 pm)

      Can I ask what they treated you with?

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