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.

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

  • John R
    08/20/2019 (7:01 pm)

    My trigger was RMSF (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) which is actually the most dangerous of the tick-bourne illnesses. I was immediately put on a 14 day regimen of doxycycline. The doc is satisfied that the tick bug is gone but now I’m left with tinnitus in its place. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s temporary.

  • kathy pease
    06/03/2019 (10:31 pm)

    I think it is the grand plan they want everyone to become sick and debilitiated for God sake. These tick borne diseases are spreading like wildfire yet they do absolutely nothing. I was diagnosed in 2012 after finding a tick on my leg. tested positive for lyme through Quest. Now my 3 year old granddaughter was bitten a few days ago and her PCP said it would be silly to put her on medicine. I then had my daughter call my llmd and she saw him and he put her on medicine. I am so pissed and frustrated. Kids cannot even play outdoors anymore without the danger of sickness. Ps my ears have been ringing for years and it has been getting louder and louder I have noticed. I have to sleep with the tv on to drown it out. God help us all! Call me a conspiracy theorist or crazy but I firmly believe this all started right with our own government and Plum Island. Prayers and love to all <3

    • PJ M.
      10/20/2019 (8:48 am)

      I’m with you. Been ringing from Lyme since 2015. Doctors say, must be your hearing. I told them it’s Lyme induced and they said it must be from hearing loss so I got tested again with no hearing loss. Why is having Lyme disease so damned controversial? I didn’t say I was bitten by a unicorn so now I have unicorn disease!
      Pulled out the tick, got mysterious symptoms that won’t go away almost 5 years of not stop symptoms but I must be a nutcase. No, really I like being sick for no reason, yes so much fun. I don’t get anything from it except broke.

  • Connie
    06/01/2019 (9:52 pm)

    Diagnosed with & tick borne disease, not Lyme, am sick with fevers, neck aching , headache under & behind eyebrows, fatigue dry cough, low grade sore throat & most concerning & horrible is a fullness in my ears & head! Like I’m underwater with pressure to point of ear canals throbbing! What is this? Started antibiotic 2 days ago. Please advise.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      06/02/2019 (6:50 am)

      I follow my patients to assess their response to treatment. I have had to change treatment if I suspect another tick borne infection that is a factor. I also have to determine whether another illness might explain part or all of the sympotoms.

  • Amy Veldman-Wilson
    05/19/2019 (3:17 pm)

    I have a question about anaplsmosis..In 2015 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease after developing Bell’s palsy. I received 21 days of doxycycline and sent home. In 2016 I developed severe angiodema to the point where I couldn’t walk well, having what felt like marbles on the bottoms of my feet. I was told there was no known cause. In the spring of 2016 I was diagnosed with Lyme again and treated for 21 days with doxycycline. During my treatment I noticed the angiodema began to go away. In August 2017 I began to have difficulty breathing, and still was dealing with angiodema though not quite as severe. I was diagnosed with severe Anaplsmosis and given 7 days of doxycycline. One month later I had difficulty breathing again they gave me 10 days of doxycycline.In December they gave me 21 days doxy for anaplsmosis, I took 28 days. They also told me I had babesiosis but not enough to treat.I developed severe anxiety, sinus pressure/pain and terrible headaches, tinnitus and loss of appetite by March of 2018. I went on an anti Lyme/anti inflammatory diet out of desperation which seemed to help. Now May 2019 I am still recovering from anxiety but experiencing fatigue and sinus pressure and mood swings. Is there any chance I may still have anaplsmosis? I’m not sure how to proceed from here. I am a mother of three teens who have also been diagnosed with Lyme/anaplsmosis and Lyme/babesiosis it has been a struggle.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      05/20/2019 (12:02 am)

      I find a longer course of doxycycline or change in antibiotics helpful for some patients. I not dismiss treatment for Babesia.

    • PJ M.
      10/20/2019 (8:57 am)

      I have lyme, babesia and RMSF. Can’t. breathe, tinnitus, severe anxiety, sinus issues, stabbing neuro pains, plus others. Sorry, i know how you feel. Hope you get well soon. Look for a local support group and share info.

    • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
      09/11/2023 (7:38 pm)

      You might get at least 8 days of atovaquone and azithromycin or other antibiotics for Rx of babesiosis. And treat LB completely, long enough duration with at least some serological response, that is a drop in Lyme bands and/or EIA Lyme antibody titers. Treat yeasts, Candidiasis, and bowel overgrowths, watching for Clostridioides difficile diarrheas, etc., of course, problems with the antibiotics with the help of your PCP.

  • Marcia
    05/03/2019 (12:19 am)

    I have been diagnosed lyme disease, bartonella and babesia. I have had severe vertigo and constant ringing in my ears. Before rmsf my ears felt muffled and my pt job was to answer phone. I couldn’t hear to do that and couldn’t hear behind me. I feel now like it’s hard to hear, always ringing and vertigo.

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