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).”

 

References:

  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"

  • Kelly
    01/28/2024 (9:14 am)
    Reply

    I’m very scared. Got bit on 7/4/11 and had a bullseye and fever but didn’t get diagnosed with Lyme for a year. Did a year of IV Rochepin as well as 3 mos of amoxicillin, Doxy on and off for a year, two years of a Zhang herbs, anti-inflammation diet, etc. As a result broke my immune system and got diagnosed with CIDP (I get all-over acid-like body burning whenever I try to take an antibiotic or I get any infection) and have now been on IVIG (128g monthly for 10 years.) By 2016 I was pretty much totally well. In 2020 went to the Hamptons and no tickbite but had tons of mosquito/sand flea bites and within 3 days was in the ER with viral meningitis. They treated me with steroids and pain med and the spinal tap shows 19 points of inflammation/infection but they never concluded what caused it. My primary care physician only found me positive for West Nile Virus. A few months later tons of neuro issues like I had with lyme resurfaced. My integrative med dr. tested me again and only RMSF showed positive – an active pos infection, but no fever, no rash. I took Doxy for a month and felt a bit better. Stayed on it with 3 mos and seemed fine. Although during those months of taking Doxy my whole body burned with an inflammatory response and I needed to be on Percocet to get through it. From 2020-2023 I was totally fine. Then on 11/18 I woke up exactly how I did in 2012 when I found out I had lyme: left side of my face numb, left-side head pain and numbness, the feeling of pins and needles roving around the left side of my skull, brainfog. It’s been three months and I have had a spinal tap, several MRIs and CTAS. My neuro has no idea what this could be but I have been fearful somehow a tickborne infection has resurfaced. Is it possible? I got the full Tickborne panel at Igenex and the only thing that shows high current and active infection is RMSF and R.Typhii.<–What is that? I am back on Doxy but the ear pain and pressure and left-side head numbness and weirdness and brain fog are horrible. I have no idea what to do, but I can't live like this. Ideas?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      01/28/2024 (2:53 pm)
      Reply

      I was encourage to hear you had improved for long periods. Nevertheless, is it so difficult to face a relapse or reinfection. The tests are not as reliable as I would like to diagnose a tick-borne infection or to be sure a tick-borne infection had resolved.

  • James
    09/01/2023 (5:48 pm)
    Reply

    Hello from Virginia. Was diagnosed with Erlichiosis last summer. Doxycycline was delayed as they thought I had mononucleosis. I’m also healthy HIV positive for the past 37 years. I have been dealing with tinnitus and back of the head headaches and I’m wondering if this is from long term or lingering effects of my infection last summer

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      09/03/2023 (10:25 am)
      Reply

      I have seen tinnitus and headaches in patients with a persistent tick borne infection

  • Wendy
    06/10/2023 (4:16 pm)
    Reply

    Hello. I have not been diagnosed with Lyme, but have Alpha Gal Syndrome. I was attacked by chiggers in 2016, and after horrible anaphylactic reactions and doing a lot of work on my own in trying to figure out what was going on, went to the Allergist in Nov of 2017 asking for the Alpha Gal blood test, which came back positive. Since then, I have had sudden hearing loss in my left ear in 2019 which left the ENT and Inner Ear Specialist baffled as to what was going on, as the hearing loss was atypical and fluctuated. I also had several ear infections prior to the hearing loss. In 2020 I experienced frozen shoulder in my left shoulder which was very painful to work through in PT. I then started to feel like maybe I had allergy issues but didn’t have a runny nose or any sneezing, but my head just felt congested all the time. The allergy testing revealed I had become allergic to all tree and weed pollen, outside mold, many animals. I am taking alergy shots now. Do you think that it is possible that the allergies and hearing loss are results of the chigger bites? How could I find out? I have recently had another ear infection and am very worried that my good ear, the right ear, will eventually be affected by the loss of hearing so I am desperately trying to find out the cause and a possible treatment. Thank you.

    • Wendy
      06/10/2023 (4:18 pm)
      Reply

      I also have tinnitus in my left ear. Sometimes it is loud, sometimes it is louder. It is always annoying.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      06/11/2023 (8:34 am)
      Reply

      I have not seen any information to share regarding chiggers.

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