Vaccinologist and director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, Gregory M. Poland, MD, who is a leading vaccine developer and pro-mandatory vaccination proponent, has called for further research into the link between COVID-19 vaccination and hearing loss, as well as other auditory conditions such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Dr. Poland experienced a sudden and severe onset of tinnitus just 90 minutes after receiving a second dose of a messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID shot in early 2021. “It was like someone suddenly blew a dog whistle in my ear,” he said. “It has been pretty much unrelenting.”1 2 3
The association between tinnitus and COVID vaccination is “worth looking into,” Dr. Poland said. “[B]ecause whenever a group of people raise an issue, it is on us as vaccinologists and public health practitioners to answer that question as part of the long-term process of building trust.”1
“It’s something that deserves attention.”2
A recent article in MedPage Today reported that Dr. Poland described the tinnitus he has been suffering as “life-altering” and that he experiences it in both ears, although it is worse in his left ear. “[I] can only begin to estimate the number of times I just want to scream because I can’t get rid of the noise or how many hours of sleep I’ve lost,” Dr. Poland said.2
Dr. Poland believes that tens of thousands of people have been affected by tinnitus following COVID vaccination and potentially millions around the world.2 He noted:
What has been heartbreaking about this, as a seasoned physician, are the e-mails I get from people that, this has affected their life so badly, they have told me they are going to take their own life.2
Dr. Poland is Vocal Critic of Those Criticizing Vaccine Safety
Dr. Poland received his medical degree from Southern Illinois University in 1980 and is a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic and has been director of the Vaccine Research Group since 1998. He is founder of the Edward Jenner Society and has been editor-in-chief of the medical journal Vaccine since 2010. He has been a consultant for the Department of Defense, as well as a consultant to AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur, Eli Lilly & Co, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and other companies.4 5
Dr. Poland’s vaccine development and other research work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1991 and he has received grant funding and royalties from ICW Healthcare Ventures for preclinical studies on peptide-based COVID vaccine for which he is an inventor.4 5
Dr. Poland has been a longtime proponent of mandatory use of influenza and other vaccines and a vocal critic of those, who are skeptical about the safety of vaccines and who oppose mandatory vaccination policies, often questioning their intelligence, motives and integrity. In 2011, Dr. Poland wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine:
Today, the spectrum of anti-vaccinationists ranges from people who are simply ignorant about science (or “innumerate”—unable to understand and incorporate concepts of risk and probability into science-grounded decision making) to a radical fringe element who use deliberate mistruths, intimidation, falsified data, and threats of violence in efforts to prevent the use of vaccines and to silence critics. Antivaccinationists tend toward complete mistrust of government and manufacturers, conspiratorial thinking, denialism, low cognitive complexity in thinking patterns, reasoning flaws, and a habit of substituting emotional anecdotes for data.6
Later that year, Dr. Poland wrote in another medical journal that promoting “misinformation” about a potential association between vaccination and the development of autism in some children, as well as and holding “discredited unscientific beliefs” about vaccination, should be a crime. He said:
There is no law against being foolish, nor any vaccine against ignorance; however, in the meantime the health of millions of children in the United States and worldwide is being placed at unnecessary and real risk through continued deliberate misinformation and discredited unscientific beliefs, and that should be a crime.7
More Than 19,600 Cases of Tinnitus After COVID Vaccination Reported in VAERS
Based on data released by Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) on Mar. 4, 2022, 19,630 people reported developing tinnitus after a COVID shot—up from 12,247 cases reported through Sept. 14, 2021. In an analysis of the VAERS data published in Annals of Neurology, tinnitus is among the most commonly reported adverse neurological events that occur following vaccination.2 3 8 9
In a study published in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery on Feb. 11, 2022 by a team of researchers from Dow University of Health Sciences and Gandhara University in Pakistan and Hamad Medical Corporation in Qatar, the authors theorized:
The heptapeptide resemblance between coronavirus spike glycoprotein and numerous human proteins further supports molecular mimicry as a potential mechanism behind such vaccine-induced disorders.
Therefore, understanding the phenomenon of cross-reactivity and molecular mimicry may be helpful in postulating potential treatment behind not only tinnitus but also the rare events of vaccination associated hearing loss and other otologic manifestations.8 10
Dr. Poland also appeared to want to reassure people that he did not believe his personal experience of developing ringing in his ears within 90 minutes of receiving a COVID shot constitutes proof that the mRNA shot he received was, indeed, the cause of his tinnitus. Emphasizing that epidemiologic studies would need to answer the question, he said:
Temporality is not causality. Rather, it forms a hypothesis, and then what you do is carefully collect information to determine [whether] this potential syndrome or side effect [is] above and beyond the background rate before there was COVID or a COVID vaccine, and is the rate different in people who got the vaccine and people who didn’t.2
World Health Organization Studying Hearing Problems Following COVID Shots
In response to the reported cases of hearing problems after COVID vaccination, the World Health Organization (WHO) is looking into the possible link between these cases and the COVID shots. Cases of hearing loss and tinnitus have come in from 27 countries and the onset of symptoms have ranged from “within minutes of vaccination to 30 days afterward, with most occurring within a day.”11 12 13
In a recent newsletter, the WHO stated:
A potential mechanism for COVID-19 vaccine-associated hearing loss could be an autoimmune process involving molecular mimicry related to the vaccine’s antigen, or bystander activation of autoreactive T-cells that may involve the vestibulocochlear nerve (vestibular nerve is involved in balance and equilibrium functions, and cochlear nerve in hearing function). Involvement of this nerve can contribute to symptoms related to labyrinthitis, which involves both vestibular and cochlear branches of the nerve or vestibular neuritis, which involves vertigo, dizziness and nausea.12
The WHO said that “further monitoring” of an association between the COVID shots is “required” to help create an awareness among health care professionals and patients as to the possible link monitor symptoms in order to “monitor symptoms and seek care.”10 12 13
Israeli Study Finds Increased Risk of Hearing Loss and Tinnitus After Pfizer COVID Shots
An article in The Vaccine Reaction published in February cited a recent study in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery that found a possible association between Pfizer/BioNTech’s BNT162b2 (also known as “Comirnaty”) mRNA COVID biologic and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). The retrospective cohort study of 2 ,602, 557 patients in Israel suggested a slight increased risk of SSNHL.1
Do Not Question COVID Vaccine Safety Said Dr. Poland
Months after developing constant high pitched ringing in his ears after a second dose of an mRNA COVID shot, in December 2021 Dr. Poland dismissed public concerns about the potential risks of COVID vaccines. In a media interview he said, “ Vaccination is ultimately our way out of this, and convincing people of the efficacy and safety of vaccines, as it is with every vaccine, is a monumental task.”14
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1 Cáceres M. Hearing Loss and Tinnitus May Be Linked to COVID Vaccination. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 28, 2022.
2 Henderson J. Vaccine Researcher Who Developed Tinnitus After COVID Shot Calls for Further Study, MedPage Today Mar. 9, 2022.
3 Planet Today. Vaccine researcher develops tinnitus 90 minutes after COVID shot. Mar. 17, 2022.
4 Mayo Clinic. Gregory A. Poland, Biography.
5 Poland GA, Kennedy RB. Vaccine safety in an era of novel vaccines: a proposed research agenda. (Competing Interests). Nat Rev Immunol 2022; 22: 203-204.
6 Poland GA, Jacobson RM. The Age-Old Struggle against the Antivaccinationists. N Engl J Med 2011; 364(2): 96-99.
7 Iannelli V. Gregory A. Poland on Vaccines. History of Vaccines Oct. 12, 2016.
8 Brooks M. ‘Overwhelming’ Need to Study COVID Vaccine-Associated Tinnitus. Medscape Mar. 11. 2022.
9 George J. Neurologic Complications Rare After COVID-19 Vaccines. MedPage Today Mar. 9, 2022.
10 Ahmed SH et al. SARS-CoV-2 vaccine-associated-tinnitus: A review. Annals of Medicine and Surgery March 2022; 75: 103293.
11 Edwards E. WHO examining potential hearing problems linked to Covid vaccines. NBC News Mar. 28, 2022.
12 Rausch C, Yue QY. Covid-19 vaccines and hearing loss and tinnitus. WHO Pharmaceuticals Newsletter No. 1 2022.
13 Valenti M. Hearing Problems Caused By The COVID-19 Vaccine? WHO Examines Limited Cases. International Business Times Mar. 29, 2022.
14 Monzon A. Amid delta variant warnings, experts battle deep-rooted anti-vax rhetoric. KIMT News Dec. 2, 2021.