Experts Challenge Caffeine-Tinnitus Link
UK scientists have tackled the common belief that caffeine causes or exacerbates tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. They found that cutting out coffee, tea, cola and chocolate may make the symptoms worse.
For many years, it has been widely believed that caffeine aggravates tinnitus, with many doctors advising their patients to avoid its consumption. But as there is a lack of experimental evidence to support this theory, researchers from Bristol University, UK took a closer look.
Dr. Lindsay St. Claire and colleagues carried out a detailed analysis of the effects of caffeine withdrawal and abstinence on tinnitus symptoms, which can include rushing, roaring, banging, and whistling sounds.
The team recruited 66 volunteers with tinnitus, who usually consumed at least 150mg of caffeine per day from tea or coffee. For 30 days, they were either given their usual caffeine consumption followed by phased withdrawal, or phased withdrawal followed by reintroduction then usual caffeine consumption.
Participants were not told when they were given caffeine and when they were given placebo. A brief record of tinnitus symptoms and caffeine withdrawal symptoms was kept twice per day, and the Tinnitus Questionnaire was completed at three time points during the study: at the start, on day 15, and on day 30, in order to measure the effect of withdrawal. Results appear in the International Journal of Audiology.
“Caffeine had no effect on tinnitus severity,” the researchers state. They report that the mean difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated days was less than half a per cent on the Tinnitus Severity index.
While the participants had significant adverse symptoms from caffeine withdrawal, “no evidence was found to justify caffeine abstinence as a therapy to alleviate tinnitus,” they write. But the experts point out that acute effects of caffeine withdrawal might add to the burden of tinnitus.
This is the first study of its kind to look at the effect of caffeine consumption on tinnitus. Its aim was to provide evidence for therapeutic practice to the tinnitus community.