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"

  • Kieran
    10/23/2020 (11:55 pm)

    Hello Doctor,

    I was bitten by a tick when I was 7. Here in 2020, my holistic DDS advised me to get tested for Lyme. However, in 2007, I discovered that I had severe mercury poisoning, and attributed most of my remaining symptoms to that. However, 12 years after that one year of an in-depth metal detox, I am dealing with increasingly painful sound sensitivity, and now high pitched ringing in my ears, plus sometimes a bit of an involuntary shake of the head, and my knee is swelling. I am 5’7″, 125, athletic, and look 45 but am 56 – mostly because I have to live such a clean lifestyle – allergies to gluten, alcohol, and even antibiotics – which may have cause my anaphylactic response when giving birth via c section. Today – There have been some recent triggers: Two PEMF sessions (powerful electromagnetic table pulsing magnetics) and a bio charger (Telsa frequency coil). What seemed like a good idea at the time has left me feeling exacerbated symptoms. Granted, it could be a Herx response. Additionally, I am utilizing a new sinus spray to treat a chronic issue. I have not been tested for Lyme. Is it possible to test positive after all this time? Or, should I just treat as if…?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      10/24/2020 (9:44 am)

      I have had patients who suffer from both conditions. They respond better to integrative medication if their tick borne infection is treated.

  • Victoria
    08/13/2020 (4:51 pm)

    I don’t recall being bitten but I fell ill with such severe vertigo and vomiting that I went to ER. I also woke up that morning with Bell’s palsy. They ran tick panel which came back positive for Lyme. I did two weeks amoxicillin because they thought it was ear infection at first. That didn’t help the vestibular loss, but cleared up Bell’s palsy and flu like symptoms. So I started taking doxycycline and have been on it for week and a half but have stiff neck and my vestibular loss is still the same- dizzy everytime I move my head and walking can be difficult. Feel like I’m walking drunk. Should I be on something else? Or does it take longer for neuro symptoms to subside?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      08/13/2020 (7:31 pm)

      Bell’s palsy typically clears by itself. It often takes longer to get better. I cannot comment of the approach other than I often use doxycycline as a start if I fail amoxicillin. Call my office in New York if you have any questions.

      • Larry harmon
        06/12/2022 (10:40 pm)

        I have had Rocky Mountain spotted tick disease for 27 years first of July I was never treated untill 13 years later I got where I couldn’t work chronic pain ears ring 24-7 hurst 24-7 fibromyalgia rheumatoid checked finally found polymyalgiarhematica very high inflammation take prednisone 4 blood pressure pills and 5 10-325 pain pills daily and 2 testosterone shots monthly still not much releaf I have my own business I don’t sleep ever thru night if I’m up I’m in pain Takes 2-3 hrs ever day to get going If I over do it I’m messed up couple days is there anything could help me with I don’t have insurance everything out of pocket 200 monthly meds not much releaf if I could get rid of my inflammation be much better I only go to pain doctor because of money and insurance wish I could get better and back to work I could run my business good not verily getting by thank you and drastic humidity affects the way I feel the higher humidity the more I hurt cold and rainy and hot humid

        • Larry harmon
          06/12/2022 (10:56 pm)

          Ps also sensitivity to sunlight load noises shoulders hurt worse hurt head to toes have gout bad sometimes used to it Retina detached 1 year ago now one year later just going to get cataract hopefully removed can’t see out of left eye for last year bruises I’ve noticed some 2 years old on legs bruis easy now and never go away I’m used to constant pain but getting worse can’t eat anything gluten like bread potatoes acid Yamato juice orange juice peanut butter peanuts give me gout

        • Dr. Daniel Cameron
          06/13/2022 (2:48 pm)

          I suggest my patients to look for co-infections and other illness. It is a tough situation if you cannot find a treatable cause.

        • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
          09/11/2023 (7:51 pm)

          Treat each and every reinfection from new tick bites. I suspect that your retinal detachment was related to rickettsia Rocky Mtn more than Lyme. Your eye surgeries might be more successful if you have completed full course therapy against Lyme, and no tick borne- reinfections are present. Work closely with your PCP to stabilize gout, other medical issues, and comorbidities all of which might make Lyme more difficult to cure.

    • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
      09/11/2023 (7:44 pm)

      Some neuro-Lyme patients benefit from iv ceftriaxone 2 gm daily for at least 28 days, with or without subsequent oral antibiotics for a few more weeks. Iv antibiotics penetrates your brain and spinal fluid more effectively than oral therapy. Treat yeasts (Candida), bowels, diarrheas, of course, in close collaboration with your PCP.

  • Tim Hale
    04/16/2020 (1:50 pm)

    Dr. Cameron,

    I developed tinnitus about a year and a half ago about a month after pulling off a deer tick. The tinnitus dramatically improved and almost disappeared when I was taking Doxycycline for another tick bite. However, when the prescription for Doxycylcine ended, the tinnitus returned. I’d had Lyme before and didn’t develop a rash (my knees swelled up dramatically). So, I wonder if I may have been reinfected?

    A more detailed explanation follows:

    About four years ago, I’d caught Lyme and didn’t develop a rash. When my knees swelled up, I went to a doctor and was tested for Lyme. At the time my knees swelled up, I remember a slight ringing in my ears. The Lyme test was positive so I was given Doxycycline for about a month which resolved the problem including the tinnitus.

    Everything was fine until about a year and a half ago, when I developed tinnitus again. I remember pulling off a deer tick about a month before that. I consulted with my primary about the tinnitus, who didn’t want to prescribe antibiotics as there were no other symptoms associated with Lyme. He also said that since I already had tested positive for Lyme on a prior occasion, re-testing wouldn’t provide any new information.

    About two weeks ago, I pulled a tick off and had a teleconsultation with a new doctor as I had changed insurance providers.
    This time I was given a prescription for Doxycycline. I took two 100mg tablets of Doxycycline for 10 days. The tinnitus practically disappeared while I was taking the Doxycycline. However, the prescription ended two days ago and now the tinnitus has returned.

    Other than the tinnitus, I haven’t noticed any major problems like knee swelling, headaches, brain fogs, etc. I do get a slight feeling of stretching or pressure near the right shoulder/base of the neck area. This was near where I pulled the tick off. I also remember reading that if you’ve been infected with Lyme and developed the knee swelling, then it’s quite rare for someone to be reinfected and again develop the swelling.

    I’m going to wait until Monday of next week and reevaluate the situation. I think that maybe it would be worth trying a longer course of Doxycycline or possibly Amoxicillin to see if it resolves the problem? In my mind there’s enough of a link between the tick bite a year and a half ago and the tinnitus to try a course of oral antibiotics (which seem to be well tolerated and are given to teenagers for months on end to treat acne).

    Any thoughts on this or the best way to proceed?

    Thank you,

    Tim Hale

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      04/16/2020 (8:20 pm)

      I have seen recurrent tinnitus in my practice. I include an ENT in the evaluation. I typically consider longer treatment or change in treatment.

    • John
      05/06/2020 (8:32 pm)

      Dr Cameron,

      A year ago my right hearing went muffled. So I went to my doctor and also told him my arms feel very heavy and burning and my neck hurts And my ear was ringing. He did blood work and referred me to neuro for EMG. The EMG was inconclusive so he sent me for a cervical MRI which reavealed nothing. In the mean time my blood work came back with RMSF IGG negative, IGM positive. But I had no fever and no rash. So antibiotics we’re never done. The muscle burning and neck pain has not subsided in a year. Do you think this could be infectious disease?

      • Dr. Daniel Cameron
        05/06/2020 (10:35 pm)

        You should include a doctor with experience in treating Lyme disease.

    • Paul Engelbertink
      06/13/2020 (9:06 am)

      Hey Tim.
      I just read your story, can I reach out on fb?

    • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
      09/11/2023 (8:07 pm)

      Lyme arthritis and synovitis, swollen knees with effusions, are deep tissue infections. Try six (6) weeks oral or a combination of iv then oral Lyme antibiotics, details depending upon your Western immunoblots and EIA antibodies blood tests. (PCRs are useful only for recent tick bites, when spirochetes are in your bloodstream. After a week, the bacilli reach your deep tissues and are harder to treat. Measure these later infections by convalescent serologies or antiBODies, not nucleic acid or PCR tests). Try to discuss all and collaborate with your PCP, adding these bloods into your annual tests and engaging them towards following your case closely. Remember what Dr C says again and again. Evaluate each Lyme bite for multiple infections, not only Lyme. Some folks with multiple bites like you take pre-emptive doxycycline, 200 mg, once immediately after each bite — trying to prevent reinfection LB, Rocky Mtn, and/ or anaplasmosis/ ehrlichiosis.

  • Linford Wenger
    11/21/2019 (4:16 am)

    Linford E Wenger from Lancaster County, Pa – I always had a hearing sensitivity towards loud noises as well. I tested positive for five tick born illnesses in 2015. We knocked out four of them. We’re having problems getting rid of Babesia. The one antibiotic may have caused permanent hearing damage. I wasn’t told about the possibility of that until a month after I started taking it! Growl… okay Rita Rohdes is forgiven. I was the first person in 20+ years of her medical practice that cold not handle the antibiotics for Babesia! My ears are still ringing now years later (November 2019) a high frequency quite loud I might add. I quit taking antibiotics because I was loosing sleep due to the loud ringing in the ears! Rita said that the Babesia must be in my ears!

    We changed our approach and tried a different antibiotic that had nothing to do with affecting hearing, and it still made my ears ring and caused loss of hearing so bad it felt like I was going to loose my hearing altogether if I kept taking the stuff. Sorry, it’s 3 am in the morning, and I’m not getting out of bed to go look in the pantry full of pill bottles! We tested my hearing and my inner ear had perfect hearing, but my outer hearing was below average. They concluded that something is causing hearing loss between my inner and outer ears. We did knock out arthritis in my both my hands though, so Rita you’re awesome. Together with God’s help I am healed! The manifestation of it is in His hands. I’ve met serval people raised from the dead. Now they’re having to die again! One guy just went to be with Jesus forever. Nothing is to difficult for my God. I’ve seen to much of what God can do to get in the dumps about anything!

    I’m currently seeing a nutritionist. We did a hair analysis and a blood test to get my mineral levels to where they should be. Doesn’t seem to be helping with the ringing in the ears. However I did notice that I don’t have the fatigue in my shoulders for the first time in 12 years! So PTL for that!

    If someone can speak into this I’m still listening! We spent over ten thousand dollars, and I’m still suffering from major fatigue if lifting 70 lbs. It’s weird, like it’s not heavy at the moment, but fatigue nails me a day or two later. Also my arms feel like they’re going to fall out of their sockets if I continue with heavy lifting. Actually my shoulders get loose and my neck and back get tight which usually results in chiropractor treatment. One reason why I had to find a different job 12 years ago. To much excercise creates more problems. So, excercise only helps to a certain point. Still hoping I can somehow learn how to get my hearing back by getting rid of this ringing in the ears! I feel like I could hear just fine if it wouldn’t be for this ringing in the ears!

    God help us! I need his help and I’m so glad for your alls input! Keep your eyes on the prize! Thank God I’m married to a super beautiful, super smart RN! We may never know how many more years of heaven on Earth God gave us if it wouldn’t be for my better half. Thank-you!

    • Christine Esposito
      06/02/2020 (1:07 am)

      Hi..i would like to know which antibiotic for babesia you felt was causing hearing loss? I was treated 2 years ago for babesia w mepron and zithromax, seemed pretty good and 2 year later this march i had sudden hearing loss to my right ear. To make matters worse, my babesia is back and i need to retreat. I’m scared to lose my only good ear but need to treat as my symptoms are pretty bad. I also wonder if i treat if my hearing might return a little. I have high frequency loss and initially went 100% deaf. Regained 10% of low frequency. I’m in a bad situation. Thanks for any help.

    • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
      09/11/2023 (8:15 pm)

      Azithromycin, erythromycin, and aminoglycoside antibiotics can affect hearing and balance with some damage to the 8th, vestibulo-auditory, cranial nerve.

  • Rebecca Conlon
    08/26/2019 (11:54 pm)

    I went hiking in an area known to have ticks with Lyme disease. Within a day my ears were clogged and full. Two months later (ears still full) I was exposed to loud music and developed very loud tinnitus. My ears continue to feel full and I feel dizzy. Is it possible that I could have reacted to Lyme disease that quickly or can I dismiss Lyme as the cause?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      08/29/2019 (12:04 am)

      I would look at other issues. I would consider Lyme disease if other problems are present

    • Katherine Murray Leisure MD
      09/11/2023 (8:22 pm)

      Check bloods for convalescent tick bite serologies (Quest): Lyme EIA with reflex to Western immunoblots, anaplasmas/ ehrlichias, rickettsias, and Babesia antibodies or serologies. Not PCR’s (cost more, and not helpful after first week unless babesias are in your red cells). Your PCP might need to note ICD 10 codes for “tick insect bites”, ear congestion, tinnitus, disequilibrium, vertigo, and other symptoms in order for insurance to pay for the tests.

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