This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always see your doctor or medical professional if you have any questions or concerns about the suitability of the coronavirus vaccine/s for you.

The coronavirus vaccination programme continues to be rolled out at pace, and increasing numbers of people are being invited to have their vaccine. We know that people with tinnitus have concerns about the impact of the vaccine and of Covid-19 on their condition, and we have put together some information to help you decide if vaccination is right for you.

Types of coronavirus vaccines

There are two vaccines being used in the UK at the moment. Both of these vaccines have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Each vaccine is given in two doses, no longer than 12 weeks apart.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

The results from the clinical trial showed the vaccine to be 95% effective at protecting people against developing Covid-19 after two doses[1], and suggested it is 52% effective in the period between doses.

Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine

The results from the latest study, where the two doses were given 12 weeks apart, show that this vaccine is 76% effective after three weeks, and 82% effective after the second dose.[2]

A third vaccine, Moderna, has been approved for use by the MHRA but has not yet been used at the time of writing.

Are the vaccines safe?

The MHRA is responsible for making sure that all medicines and medical devices – including vaccines – used in the UK are safe and effective. They have to approve any new treatment or vaccine before they can be used on the public in the UK.

Although the vaccines have been developed more quickly than normal, no stages of development and testing have been rushed or missed out. The speed has been due to international effort and collaboration in the face of the unprecedented threat from Covid-19.

The MHRA will also continue to monitor the vaccines over time.

The Yellow Card scheme

The Yellow Card scheme is the system for recording any suspected side effects from medicines, vaccines or medical devices. It is a vital part of helping the MHRA monitor the safety of all healthcare products in the UK.

Reports do not have to prove that a medicine, vaccine or medical device caused the side effect, there just has to be a suspicion that it may have.

Do the coronavirus vaccines cause tinnitus or make it worse?

In the trials prior to release, no mention was made of the onset of tinnitus or worsening tinnitus for either vaccine[3] [4].

The safety update report of 14 March 2021 from the MHRA estimates that 10.9 million first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 13.7 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine had been given, and around 1.3 million second doses, mostly of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, had been given[5].

A total of 116,632 Yellow Cards reporting adverse effects have been received[6].

A total of 780 reports of tinnitus were made.

This means that fewer than 1 in 32,000 people are affected which classifies this side effect as ‘very rare’[7].

Does Covid-19 cause tinnitus or make tinnitus worse?

A study by audiologists at the University of Manchester found that a significant number of patients reported a deterioration in their hearing after hospitalisation for Covid-19, with 6.6% developing tinnitus.[8]

A global study found that 40% who had Covid-19 symptoms reported that their tinnitus was more bothersome.[9]

What should I do?

The evidence appears to show that both coronavirus vaccines are safe, and that any side effects are likely to be mild. The likelihood of the vaccines causing or making tinnitus worse appears to be very low.

The MHRA state that:

‘The expected benefits of the vaccines in preventing Covid-19 and serious complications associated with Covid-19 far outweigh any currently known side effects.’[10]

However, if you are concerned, please discuss your worries with your GP or with the medical professionals at the vaccination centre, as they will be able to advise you.

If you do experience any side effects, they can be reported using the Yellow Card scheme.[11]

Updated 25 March 2021


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Pfizer-BioNTech.html [accessed 8 March 2021]

[2] Voysey M et al. Single Dose Administration, And The Influence Of The Timing Of The Booster Dose On Immunogenicity and Efficacy Of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) Vaccine. The Lancet (pre-print). https://ssrn.com/abstract=3777268 [accessed 8 March 2021]

[3] Voysey M et al. Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: an interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK. The Lancet. 397 (10269). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32661-1

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local Reactions, Systemic Reactions, Adverse Events, and Serious Adverse Events: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/pfizer/reactogenicity.html [accessed 8 March 2021]

[5] Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Coronavirus vaccine – weekly summary of Yellow Card reporting. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine-adverse-reactions/coronavirus-vaccine-summary-of-yellow-card-reporting [accessed 25 March 2021]

[6] ibid

[7] NHS. What are side effects? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/what-are-side-effects/ [accessed 8 March 2021]

[8] Munro K et al. Persistent self-reported changes in hearing and tinnitus in post-hospitalisation COVID-19 cases. International Journal of Audiology. 59 (12). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14992027.2020.1798519

[9] Beukes EW, Baguley DM, Jacquemin L, Lourenco MPCG, Allen PM, Onozuka J, Stockdale D, Kaldo V, Andersson G and Manchaiah V (2020). Changes in tinnitus experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health 8:592878. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.592878

[10] Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Coronavirus vaccine – weekly summary of Yellow Card reporting. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine-adverse-reactions/coronavirus-vaccine-summary-of-yellow-card-reporting [accessed 25 March 2021]

[11] Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Yellow Card. https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/ [accessed 8 March 2021]