by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
After reading one of my emails to a group, a lady remarked,
WHOA! I did not know that caffeine can cause tinnitus. I drink a lot of diet pop mostly Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi and have had tinnitus for 10+ years. Tell me more.
It has been “conventional wisdom” for many years that caffeine causes tinnitus although there don’t seem to be any studies to back up this assumption.
As a result, in 2011, Dr. Lindsay St. Claire and colleagues at the Center for Hearing and Balance Studies at the University of Bristol in the UK conducted a double-blind trial of 66 people for 30 days to test this assumption. They concluded that caffeine had no significant effect on tinnitus. Based on this one study, now it seems that everyone is reporting that there is no association between caffeine and tinnitus.
Unfortunately, this flies in the face of numbers of people who have noticed a direct correlation between their tinnitus and their caffeine consumption. So what is the truth?
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that caffeine consumption and tinnitus are indeed related in some way. For example, In a survey done by the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), the results confirmed this. Jennifer Born reported,
“As recently as 2005, we asked our ATA members in a member survey whether or not they felt that their tinnitus was affected by caffeine consumption. Though it was not a scientific survey, 24% of our members felt that their tinnitus got worse after consuming caffeine.” (1)
A bit later, Jennifer explained, “I know that here at the American Tinnitus Association, we have gotten numerous letters over the years from our members that reducing their caffeine intake did cause a reduction and in some cases a total alleviation of tinnitus symptoms.” (1)
On the other side of the coin there is a different story. Jennifer continues, “However we have also heard that reducing or completely eliminating caffeine had absolutely no bearing on some individual’s tinnitus and all it did was cause caffeine withdrawal including nausea and headaches.” (1)
This latter view is exactly what the above-mentioned study found.
How do we reconcile these divergent views? The answer is simple. Caffeine affects the tinnitus of some people and doesn’t apparently affect the tinnitus of other people.
Therefore, if you eat or drink something that causes your tinnitus to get louder or more intrusive, then you are sensitive to that substance. Conversely, if it makes no difference to your tinnitus, then, no matter what others say, you can continue to eat/drink it without worrying about your tinnitus.
At the same time, since you drink a lot of diet soda, your tinnitus may be due to other chemicals in the soda. For example, Aspartame can cause your tinnitus to get worse also.
If you wonder whether your tinnitus is related to all the diet soda you drink, stop for a couple of weeks and then assess whether your tinnitus has changed or not. If there is no difference, then your tinnitus is obviously from other causes.
If you want to learn more about the many different things that can trigger tinnitus, or more about many things you can do to help bring your tinnitus under control, check out my book, “When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus— Here’s How“.
(1) Tinnitus: Is There A Caffeine Connection? Jennifer Born, American Tinnitus Association.