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LOOKING AT LINKS BETWEEN CAFFEINE AND HEARING HEALTH

The stimulating effects of caffeine boost our alertness throughout the day by improving circulation and stimulating our nervous system.

However, caffeine can restrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure, both of which contribute to hearing health. So it’s been of interest to researchers to understand caffeine can affect hearing loss issues, such as tinnitus and Ménière’s disease.

A study published in 2016 indicated that caffeine may prolong the recovery process of Temporary Threshold Shift (TSS), which is a temporary hearing loss induced by loud noise exposure.

Drinking coffee may well impair the recovery of someone suffering from TSS. However, the study was tested on guinea pigs, and the same effects may not translate to people.

In contrast, a study carried out by researchers in Korea on a much larger data set, including 13,448 participants, found that daily coffee drinkers were 50-70% less likely to develop hearing loss than those who never drank coffee.

Although there is still limited research on the topic, it appears caffeine does not have a significant impact on hearing health. The average person who consumes two cups of coffee or less in a day is likely to see little impact on their hearing health over the long term.

But there are exceptional circumstances where avoiding caffeine is still recommended by doctors. One case is for patients on the cisplatin drug, which is known to cause hearing issues for those undergoing chemotherapy

In these cases,  Doctors recommend avoiding caffeine as the two might cause adverse reactions when mixed together. The recommendations came after a study on lab rats in 2019 that provided evidence that caffeine increases the risk of cisplatin-induced hearing loss. The authors of the study concluded:

These findings highlight a possible drug to drug interaction between caffeine and cisplatin for ototoxicity and suggest that caffeine consumption should be cautioned in cancer patients treated with a chemotherapeutic regimen containing cisplatin.

A common hearing-related problem is tinnitus, in which a person experiences ringing or other noises in both ears.

Some tinnitus sufferers reported that their symptoms improved when they cut down on caffeine intake. While another study showed women who drink a lot of coffee had lower rates of tinnitus.  Clearly, more research is needed in this area.

Finally, restriction of caffeine and salt, are recommendations made to sufferers of Ménière’s disease, a chronic illness that induces attacks of vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus.

Yet although these recommendations are still made by doctors today as quick and simple actions a patient can take, studies have not been able to make any conclusive link one way or the other to consumption of caffeine.

The authors of the report said:

This intervention is widely recommended to patients without any proven benefit or clear understanding of any potential harms. This may delay the use of more effective treatment options resulting in disease progression and patient suffering or adverse effects.

Caffeine and its connection to hearing loss is a topic understudied and still largely unexplored, and for which many recommendations are still based on

Author

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    Azra Syakirah spends much of her time travelling asia, photographing and writing about cafe's and coffee experiences. She has lived in Malaysia, Singapore, and more recently Japan, where she resides in the capital, Tokyo.

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