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There are few people who do not enjoy a good cup of coffee or tea. Caffeine is something most adults feel they need to consume every day. As audiologists, we are often asked whether there is a link between caffeine and hearing loss. Could caffeine worsen one’s hearing or tinnitus?

What we’ve always thought:

For a long time, audiologists believed that caffeine may have a small impact on hearing loss, and a bigger impact on tinnitus. Traditional advice to someone suffering from tinnitus is to try and cut out caffeine. However, in recent years it’s been noted that there isn’t really much evidence that it makes any difference at all.

Caffeine, Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

A study released in 2014 looked at whether there is a link between caffeine, hearing loss, and tinnitus in women. The results were rather surprising! The findings showed that women who consume between 450mg and 599mg of coffee per day are 15% less likely to develop hearing loss. This works out to be between 3 and 6 cups per day. However, once you go over 600mg per day, this flips to a 21% higher likelihood of hearing loss. The same study showed that women who drink less than 150mg of caffeine per day actually have higher incidence rates of tinnitus than those who drink more!

Caffeine and Noise

While that study may have indicated a positive link between caffeine and hearing, another released later found something else. In this study, researchers found that consuming caffeine after exposure to noise may prevent the ears from recovering. Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) occurs when the ears have been damaged due to noise exposure. It typically returns to normal within 72 hours. However, this study, performed on guinea pigs, showed that TTS in combination with caffeine consumption prevents recovery and can lead to permanent hearing loss. The next stage would be to study this in humans, but if it’s true, it would be a good idea to skip the coffee after a night at a big concert or club.

These studies show us that there is no rule when it comes to caffeine and our hearing right now. It seems that too little caffeine may be as problematic as too much. For this reason, it’s always best to moderate your caffeine intake. It also appears that caffeine after noise exposure can prevent the ears from recovering- but we can’t assume that eliminating caffeine will prevent noise induced hearing loss. When dealing with noise, it’s always best to protect the hearing from the start by using plugs or other hearing protection, or by avoiding noisy situations altogether. Remember that as always it’s a good idea to monitor your hearing thresholds with regular hearing testing.

For more information about these studies, or to make an appointment for a test or to discuss hearing protection, contact us or comment below.