Tinnitus from Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine — Recovery Story

Discussion in 'Success Stories' started by theoakapple, Oct 27, 2021.

    1. theoakapple

      theoakapple Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      This is about to be a long-ass post. You've been warned. I've been meaning to write this for a while because I was desperately looking for a story like mine when all of this started back in April 2021.

      If you are freaking out due to COVID-19 vaccine induced tinnitus, this post is for you. I'm here to speak some hope based off my personal experience. The long & the short: I wound up with it and mine went away.

      First off, let me say, I am not against the vaccine. I think for the majority of the population it is safe and effective and that people should get it. For the small percentage who are negatively impacted, it can be devastating. Unfortunately, kind of hard to know which bucket you're in until you've had it. I have never (as far as I know) had an adverse reaction to any vaccine so I had no reason to believe I would with this.

      Where to begin: I've had low tone/non irritating tinnitus since I was about 10 or 12 years old. I remember sitting in bed one night when it just started out of the blue. I'm 33 now and for the past 10-15 years of my life, it's been low tone and easy to mask with fans. Heck, I even got to the point where I didn't need a fan to sleep with. The tone was so pure and consistent, I basically taught my brain/myself to view it as background noise. I travel a lot for work and consistently have a hard time falling asleep in new locations, especially if there's any noise (hotel next door neighbors, traffic, etc). I'd wear earplugs and listen to the ring while drifting off to sleep.

      My dad and I got COVID-19 last December (2020). I started feeling “off” around December 23rd. I'm 33, 5'8, 140 lbs and have been pretty active and into health and fitness for most of my life. COVID-19 kicked my ASS. My dad, who's a cancer survivor in his 60s, had bad fatigue and a bit of a cough but that was pretty much it (he did wind up with some residual lung inflammation that needed to be treated with steroids) but out of the two of us, I had the worst case. My mom never caught it. We have no idea how. To say COVID-19 kicked my ass is saying something given I had Swine Flu in 2009 and that was NO walk in the park either. For me, COVID-19 started off as a stuffy nose which then turned rapidly into what I thought was a full blown sinus infection – my sinuses were EXTREMELY inflamed and raw to the point when I'd blow my nose, there was a noticeable amount of blood. My ears itched and felt clogged. I was taking OTC heavy decongestants and they weren't doing anything. During the first few days, I was still working out—until one day, I while doing some Cardio on the elliptical at my parents' house (I was staying with them for Christmas) I suddenly got really winded. Not just a little winded, I thought I was going to pass out, even though I was at a low intensity. I stepped off and couldn't catch my breath- I started panicking a bit. I had a Blood O2 sensor I got at the beginning of the pandemic. When I put it on, my O2 levels were at 84. I freaked out. That's when I knew something was wrong. Once I calmed down, the levels went back up above 90, but were still surprisingly low (like 92/93). I still wasn't thinking “COVID-19” because at that time the symptoms didn't include anything with sinuses. In fact it was listed as one of the “NOT COVID-19” symptoms. I got tested on December 27th. I got the results back the evening of December 31st, but at that point I already knew. The morning of December 31st, I completely lost my sense of taste and smell, was having trouble breathing with dipping O2 levels (but never below 88 or I would've gone to the hospital), extreme fatigue, and chills that would come on rapidly and shake my entire body. Well, shit. I definitely cried out of fear – for myself and for my parents who I'd been staying with the entire time. The major grace in this situation was that by the time I found out, I was already through a lot of the worst pieces. The nurse told me that if you're not in the hospital by your 10th symptomatic day, you're pretty much out of the woods.

      The recovery was long. Swine flu was intense but short. I was REALLY sick for 2 weeks but then totally fine. COVID-19 was like riding a roller coaster I couldn't get off. I'd start feeling better for a couple days but then symptoms would resurge. I wound up dealing with high blood pressure and some heart arrhythmias for about 2-3 months after. The brain fog made it hard for me to put words together. It was like I was mentally slogging through mud with a rucksack on. When I lost my sense of smell and taste I IMMEDIATELY started smell re-training (where you find things with really strong, distinctive odors, deeply inhale multiple times, reminding yourself of what it's supposed to smell like—repeat three or four times per session, I did three sessions per day – by day 3 I began regaining smell but it took about 3 weeks for smell and taste to come back completely). The fatigue was crushing but finally lifted after about 2 months. By March I was pretty much fully recovered.

      My state opened up vaccinations to my age group in March. I asked my doctor about getting vaccinated so soon after recovering. He assured me that there was nothing indicating that I should wait. I asked if the fact that I had two autoimmune diseases was any cause for concern, given my body's natural inclination to be hyper reactive, all the time. Again, reassured that there was nothing indicating I should wait on getting vaccinated.

      So I did. I got my first Pfizer dose at the end of March and then my second about three weeks later on April 13th. During my entire COVID-19 experience, I never had a change in tinnitus. I remember, back in March, reading about Jerry Morgan, the Texas Roadhouse CEO who committed suicide due to severe tinnitus from COVID-19. I remember thanking God that wasn't something that had happened to me and that I'd walked away from the situation relatively unscathed (and with hella-antibodies). April 16th I started noticing my tinnitus was louder than usual—the low tone became a piercing banshee shriek that never gave up. It screamed in both of my ears. If the scale is “1 to 10” this was a 10 – to the point I couldn't focus on what people were saying. I couldn't sleep. I was surrounded by the shriek CONSTANTLY. You know that opening scene in the old 50s “Twilight Zone” where the glass window breaks – if you sustain that pitch and sound, that's what it was like all the time. At the same time, I experienced an EXTREME level of anxiety. I have dealt with anxiety my whole life but never experienced anything as prolonged and intense as that period of time. It was like my brain was on fire and screaming for help. I shed a LOT of hair (Telogen Effluvium). I had muscle spasms in my head and neck that made it hard for me to turn my head to the left. I wound up with severe migraines/light/sound sensitivity. In the dark hours of the night when I sat, prisoner to the shrieking and pain, I understood why Jerry did what he did.

      Googling “COVID-19 Vaccine Tinnitus” brought up bleak scenes. Tinnitus research in general can be depressing. “It's permanent” “it never goes away” “teach patients to live with it” are phrases frequently seen in articles. One thing I've always taken issue with when it comes to that research – how can researchers acknowledge they don't know what causes tinnitus (only that MANY things can) but definitively say it's permanent? It's one thing if it's caused by hearing loss. Mine is not.

      Not wanting to have to “learn to live with it” – I decided to chase every path to figure if I could narrow down or rule out causes. I have had 2 hearing tests in the last 6 months. Normal. I've seen two Ears/Nose/Throat (ENT) doctor's – the first on April 30th so about 2 weeks after the onset. When I told the first I had a surge in tinnitus the first question out of her mouth was “did you get vaccinated?” She was the first to outright theorize the tinnitus was induced by the vaccine. She was also the first to tell me she'd seen others go through it and that it went away over time.

      I've had an MRI AND an MRA. Normal. I got my blood work checked – I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which has been stable for years but had suddenly swung toward Hyper. My liver enzymes were also off—they were tested over the course of 6 months and remained elevated until around the 6 month mark. I don't drink and I wasn't using Tylenol or painkillers (out of fear they'd make the tinnitus worse) so there was no explanation as to why that had happened (except I have theories which I'll get to later). My vitamin levels were all normal.

      I started doing research and forming a theory that the tinnitus: inappropriately targeted inflammatory response causing the tinnitus and/or the fact that I have a couple autoimmune diseases contributing to a maladapted immune response.

      There's research already published that COVID-19 causes an inflammatory response that can contribute to causing severe tinnitus in some patients:

      New onset tinnitus in the absence of hearing changes following COVID-19 infection - ScienceDirect

      And some indicating the vaccine can cause the same type of response (which is logical):

      Researcher: Neuroinflammation may be behind tinnitus reports in some COVID-19 vaccine recipients - Drug Discovery and Development (drugdiscoverytrends.com)

      So I started running with that theory. “This is inflammation – if I treat the inflammation, maybe it'll help decrease or make it go away.” I switched up my diet to an anti-inflammatory diet. I started taking supplements (Turmeric, Vitamin D, Zinc, Ginkgo Biloba, B Complex, CoQ10, Fish Oil, probiotics). I started a color-coded tracker to see if I could identify any patterns and began logging how I was feeling on days when it was worse or better. In all honesty, I don't know how much or if the diet or supplements impacted my recovery (though there is some research indicating certain foods and alcohol can aggravate tinnitus) or if the recovery would've happened on its own but slowly, over the course of a few months, things started to trend better. The intensity dropped but was still noticeable and annoying—also weirdly reactive to certain noises like fans, air conditioning or the ambient sounds of the highway would really bring it forward. It was odd because as it started to go away (and subsequently became more “reactive” I found being in a quiet environment would help calm everything down—I have no idea how that works given that's not how I've dealt with tinnitus up until this point). In June, I started having back to back days where it was completely gone. I noticed I was experiencing intermittent ear pain/itchiness with the tinnitus. During one of those bouts, I went to Urgent Care and convinced the doctor to give me a short course prescription of Prednisone. BOY did that make a difference! That dropped the tinnitus down significantly and resolved the itching in my ears for the duration (and about a couple weeks after) the prednisone course, which, again, backs up my theory on inflammation in the ear being at the root of the tinnitus surge.

      Months later (October 2021) I'm almost back to baseline. I'd say my symptoms have improved 90% from their worst point and I'm pretty confident I'll get to 100%, it's just going to take some time. Our bodies are AMAZING healing machines. If my body could kick COVID-19's ass, it could beat whatever was causing this. It just needed time and support.

      If I'm being totally forthright, to this day, I can't 100% for sure say it was the vaccine or not, which is why I am still a proponent of the vaccine overall. BUT, the timing was extremely suspicious and aligns with other accounts of vaccine-induced tinnitus. Will I be getting a booster? Probably not. For one, show me the evidence that someone who has survived moderate COVID-19 AND been fully vaccinated is likely to contract COVID-19 again. I'll wait. Even if someday I could get COVID-19 again, I think I'd rather go through that again than go through what I went through with the tinnitus (and migraines, and hair loss, and muscle spasms...)

      I've theorized on other (non-vaccine) factors that could have affected the tinnitus surge:
      • Stress: Extreme stress from geographic and job move that I had completed prior to my 2nd vaccination. However, I've gone through times that were just as stressful and it's never impacted my tinnitus like that.

      • Stopping Hormonal Birth Control: I went off of oral birth control (Yaz) in January and just started naturally cycling that March/early April – around the time the tinnitus surge started. There is research indicating estrogen can impact tinnitus and hearing in general. When I was on birth control, I didn't notice my tinnitus at all, so it may have been helping. My ENT confirmed this could be a cause but said it was tricky to determine given I went off in January but didn't start having issues with the tinnitus until April—and days after I had been vaccinated (suspicious). I initially thought the hair loss could've been explained by the going off of birth control but my OBGYN said the timing was off and that I would've started losing hair closer to the time that I stopped the birth control (so February timeframe), not April/May (when it was REALLY bad).
      Hormone replacement therapy decreases the risk of tinnitus in menopausal women: a nationwide study (nih.gov)

      Tinnitus pitch and minimum masking levels in different etiologies: International Journal of Audiology: Vol 53, No 7 (tandfonline.com)
      • Actual COVID-19/Long Hauler COVID-19: Could this be a long-hauler, delayed effect of COVID-19 itself? This theory makes less sense to me given I'd fully recovered and wasn't experiencing any “long hauler” symptoms until after I was fully vaccinated.
      I think the “going off the birth control” and “the COVID-19 Vaccine cause my tinnitus and other systemic inflammation issues” are the most substantive theories for me. From what I've read, there hasn't been much research on how the COVID-19 vaccine affects people with autoimmune disorders – and definitely none on how it effects people with autoimmune disorders who have recovered from COVID-19. I think my theory about the vaccine triggering maladaptive immune response holds the most water given one of the pieces of evidence are my thyroid levels which went from being stable while I had COVID-19 to swinging into an uncontrolled hyper state.

      Either way, I seem to be on the road to full recovery. Even now, as I write this, my tinnitus is back to baseline, softly humming in the background. If you're reading this and you're desperate for relief, hang in there. I was in your shoes back in April, absolutely panicked and horrified at the prospect that this was now my life. Thankfully, it is not. I know I'm not the only one who's gone through this and the tinnitus as gone away. What's to say this won't be you, too? :)
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    2. Chris S.

      Chris S. Member

      United States
      Tinnitus Since:
      February 2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Exposure to loud sound; Pfizer vaccine
      Very nice to share this and I am glad that you are doing so much better!

      Unfortunately, for many others, myself included, tinnitus only got worse after the jab. And it's been more than 7 months since I got the Pfizer shot. And, from what I've read here, for many prednisone actually worsened a preexisting tinnitus. Still, we can hope that the effects of the vaccine may eventually subside.
      • Hug Hug x 1
    3. Forever hopeful

      Forever hopeful Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2015 resolved, 4/20 L ear, increase 2/21
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      2015,noise,2020-21 SNHL
      Sorry to hear. I have to get the jab or lose my job. When you talk about Prednisone, do you mean worsening tinnitus after the vaccine?
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    4. Percy’s girl

      Percy’s girl Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Second week of October 2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Pfizer Covid vaccine
      I had to get the Pfizer jab on October 8 to keep my job in healthcare. I noticed the ringing about a week later and it is only getting worse. I have to get the second jab later this month, no choice. ☹️ I hope I find something on this site that helps. I only had tinnitus once before, about 10 years ago after I had surgery. It went away after a few months. God only knows what is in this jab to cause it...
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    5. Lane

      Lane Member Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Single 25 mg dose of (anticholinergic) drug Promethazine
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    6. Chris S.

      Chris S. Member

      United States
      Tinnitus Since:
      February 2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Exposure to loud sound; Pfizer vaccine
      No, I meant worsening of tinnitus after taking Prednisone (not the vaccine). There are other posters who reported tinnitus spikes after taking Prednisone (and most of those posts seem to predate the COVID-19 vaccines).

      In my institution, the boosters are, luckily, optional (for now, at least, but it looks like a long-term policy).

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