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Is the Pfizer Vaccine Linked to Hearing Loss?
All medicines and vaccines have potential side effects, and the Covid-19 vaccines are no different. Over the course of distributing the version manufactured by Pfizer, there have been some reports of the vaccine causing hearing loss. But is there a link between receiving the shot and losing your hearing?
By The Numbers
As of August 2022, more than one million Americans have died from Covid-19
Fighting Other Diseases
The mRNA technology used to develop the Covid-19 vaccines is currently being used to develop treatments for cancer
Who Can Be Vaccinated?
Anyone six months or older in the United States can now receive a Covid-19 vaccine
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Were There Reports of Hearing Loss During the Clinical Trials?
Before any medicine or vaccine is rolled out to the general public, it has to go through a series of clinical trials. Pfizer and BioNTech conducted three clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine. They announced the conclusion of the third and final trial in November 2020. The companies applied for an Emergency Use Authorization with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), received it and then began administering vaccines to healthcare workers in December 2020.
More than 44,000 people participated in the Pfizer clinical trials and reported side effects of pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, chills, fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and a lack of appetite. There were no initial reports of hearing loss or hearing problems during the trials.
How Many People Have Been Affected?
As vaccine distribution and administration continued, Pfizer learned of more possible side effects. In March of 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) started investigating cases of hearing loss and tinnitus reported by people who had received the Covid-19 vaccine. The cases were rare, and most of them were from people who had taken the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
At the time the investigation launched, 11 billion doses of the vaccine had been given worldwide, and there were only 164 cases of hearing loss among people who had gotten the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca shots. (The AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved in the U.S.) The average age of those who reported hearing loss was 47 years old, and most of them were healthy without any pre-existing conditions.
There have been more reported cases of tinnitus with the Pfizer vaccine. The WHO says 367 people worldwide have experienced the ‘ringing in the ears’ known as tinnitus and 80 percent of those cases were people who took the Pfizer vaccine. The average age of those who reported tinnitus was 48 years old, and 75 percent of them were women. One third of them worked in healthcare.
The onset of hearing loss or tinnitus occurred quickly – usually within 24 hours of receiving a vaccine dose. What we still don’t know is how long the hearing loss or tinnitus lasts or how severe it is. But even though more research needs to be done, WHO investigators concluded this side effect is rare and the benefits of taking the Covid-19 vaccine far outweigh the risks.
Separately from the WHO investigation, researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied 555 adults who reported sudden cases of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) which is hearing loss caused by damage in your inner ear. Sudden SNHL happens immediately or over the course of a few days and there’s no apparent explanation for it. All Americans who reported experiencing sudden SNHL had received either the Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The study covered those who had been vaccinated between December 2020 and July 2021. At that time, 187 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had been administered in the U.S.
The average age of those who reported having sudden SNHL was 54 years old and more than half of them were women. The majority had received the Pfizer vaccine. Even with reports of it happening, researchers at Johns Hopkins concluded that the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine does not increase your risk of hearing loss. But did go on to say more study needs to be done to reach a final conclusion. Researchers at Johns Hopkins believe the Covid-19 vaccine is a safe, effective way to protect yourself.
What Should I Do If I Take the Vaccine and Experience Hearing Loss?
If you do experience hearing loss after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, contact your doctor immediately. What’s known about sudden SNHL is the quicker it’s treated, the better your chances of having your hearing restored. Doctors will usually prescribe steroids that are either taken orally or injected directly into the middle ear. Oftentimes, your hearing will come back after the steroid treatment.