WHO probes rare reports of hearing issues after COVID-19 vaccination

The World Health Organization is examining rare reports of hearing loss and other auditory issues like tinnitus, or ringing of the ears, after COVID-19 vaccinations, NBC News reported March 28. 

The agency in its pharmaceuticals newsletter said the Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden that works with the WHO had identified 164 reports of hearing loss and 367 reports of tinnitus after vaccination as of Feb. 22, 2021. The cases were reported in different countries, including 113 tinnitus reports in the U.S. As of March 18 the CDC had received 14,851 tinnitus reports following COVID-19 vaccination to its Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. As of that same date, more than 255 million Americans had received at least one dose of vaccine.

Of the 367 reported tinnitus cases, 73 percent were among women. The reported cases cover an age range of 19 to 91. Most of the cases, or 293, occurred among people who had received Pfizer's vaccine. Most cases, 74 percent, were recorded as non-serious. 

The National Institutes of Health estimates about 10 percent of the adult population in the U.S. experiences tinnitus, and research focused on auditory issues following vaccination has been limited. NBC cited a study published in February in JAMA Otolaryngology that found hearing problems post-vaccination were no more common than would be expected in the general population. 

A Pfizer spokesperson told the news outlet it found "no causal association" between its COVID-19 vaccine and tinnitus. 

"Awareness of this possible link may help healthcare professionals and those vaccinated to monitor symptoms and seek care as appropriate. As there is still only limited data in the literature providing evidence for this link, further monitoring is required," the WHO said in its pharmaceuticals newsletter. 


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