Do you experience ringing in your ears? This condition known as tinnitus is a sound that is only heard by the affected individual and there is no external source. Although characteristically defined as ringing, it can also sound like:

  • whistling
  • humming
  • buzzing
  • chirping
  • shrieking

Almost every individual at some point would have experienced tinnitus especially after they are exposed to loud noises such as attending concerts, head and neck injuries, ear infections, allergic rhinitis, and more. The sound can seem to come from one ear or both ears and can be both pulsating, continuous, or intermittent. Some also experience a slight degree of hearing loss. There are many causes for tinnitus and it’s thought to affect as many as 50 million Americans. While it typically affects individuals above the age of 50, children and adolescents can also suffer from it. There is no cure for tinnitus, but those affected can seek professional help for ways to manage it. Most usually acclimate to the ringing but for some, it can lead to issues such as:

  • poor concentration
  • insomnia
  • poor performance in work or school
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depression

 

Caffeine Consumption Around the World & The Great Debate About It’s Cause

Caffeine is the world’s most consumed psychoactive drug. Found in many beverages such as tea and coffee, it is unregulated and legal globally. It is a methylxanthine class stimulant of the central nervous system and found in seeds, nuts, and leaves in plants that are native to South East Asia and South America. It is the plant’s original defense mechanism as the bitterness of caffeine helps protect the plants against insects. Currently, caffeine can be used to prevent drowsiness and increase work performance. Caffeine can be extracted through infusion, a process where the product (beans or leaves) is steeped in water. A study conducted in the year 2014 found that 85% of adults in America consumed an average of 164mg of caffeine every day. There are many positive and negative health effects, but does it cause ringing in your ears?

Caffeine Contributes To Tinnitus

There has been some research that showed caffeine may aggravate tinnitus. In other words, for those who already suffer from tinnitus, reducing your caffeine intake may provide you some relief. There have been many reports of caffeine aggravating tinnitus. The ATA have also reported that they received many letters that the reduction of caffeine has reduced or even stopped their symptoms of tinnitus. In Montreal, Quebec, researchers at McGill University Health Center also found that your daily dose of caffeine can prevent your hearing from going back to normal after being exposed to loud noises. Loud noises can cause a condition called Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) where those affected experience temporary loss of hearing or tinnitus as the delicate hair cells of the inner ear are fatigued due to being overworked. In the study, Dr. Faisal Zawawi and his team suspected that certain substances prevent the body’s capability to restore hearing and concluded that caffeine combined with TTS can cause permanent hearing loss.

Caffeine Does Not Contribute To Tinnitus

Although the “conventional wisdom” dictates that caffeine causes tinnitus, Dr. Lindsay St. Claire and her colleagues in 2011 at the Center for Hearing and Balance Studies at the University of Bristol in United Kingdom concluded that caffeine had no significant effect on tinnitus. The double-blind trial consisting of 66 individuals were observed for 30 days. The research team also concluded that stopping your caffeine intake abruptly may even make your tinnitus worse due to caffeine withdrawal.

Caffeine Reduces Tinnitus

According to the research from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, doctors and scientists have discovered that caffeine (or coffee) may prevent tinnitus. Published in the American Journal of Medicine, the study tracked 65,000 women for 18 years and was able to observe that those who drank more coffee have a lower risk of developing tinnitus. The study found that women who drank 5 cups of coffee a day had a 15% lower rate of tinnitus compared to women who drank one and a half cups daily. Throughout the 18-year study, 5,289 cases of tinnitus were reported.
Despite the increasing literature, there are still people who report their own correlation between caffeine and tinnitus based on their own symptoms. So, what can we conclude from the different evidence and reports from studies and different individuals? The simplest answer would be that caffeine affects tinnitus in some but does not affect others. The mechanism of how caffeine affects tinnitus is still unclear.

What To Do If You Are Suffering From Tinnitus?

If you are suffering from tinnitus, make it a point to observe your own body. Try reducing or increasing the amount of caffeine you are ingesting and see how it affects your tinnitus. Keep a daily journal that records how much caffeine is being consumed and how it affects your work performance, alertness, and symptoms of tinnitus. This is the best way to know what works best for your body. You may even find the optimal cups of coffee or tea you can take every day to keep you alert and focused for work or school!

It would also be wise to research other food and drinks that may contain caffeine or cause tinnitus. For example, diet soda and aspartame may also aggravate your tinnitus. Make an appointment with your primary care physician to rule out any other underlying causes or contributing factors that may aggravate your tinnitus.

Conclusion About Caffeine’s Impact on Tinnitus

Despite all the evidence, it is still best to consult your primary care physician if your symptoms are affecting your daily routine. Work together with your doctor to determine if caffeine aggravates, improves, or has no contribution to your tinnitus. Researchers have suggested that more evidence is required before recommendations whether tinnitus patients should increase or decrease their caffeine intake to improve their symptoms.