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Study Casts Doubt on Caffeine Link to Tinnitus

New research supported by Deafness Research UK has found that giving up caffeine does not relieve tinnitus and acute caffeine withdrawal might add to the problem. This is the first study of its kind to look at the effect of caffeine consumption on tinnitus.

 Researchers at the Centre for Hearing and Balance Studies at Bristol University carried out the first pseudo-randomised, double-blinded, placebo controlled study of phased caffeine withdrawal and abstention to test for a connection between caffeine consumption and tinnitus. The aim of the study was to provide evidence for therapeutic practice to the tinnitus community.

 Sixty-six volunteers who experienced tinnitus and who usually consumed at least 150mg a day of caffeine in tea or coffee took part in a 30-day trial. Participants were assigned to one of two groups, either having their usual caffeine consumption followed by phased withdrawal; or going through phased withdrawal followed by reintroduction and then their usual caffeine consumption.

 Participants knew they would only receive caffeine on some days, but did not know which days were which. They were required to complete a questionnaire to measure their tinnitus three times during the study – at the start, after they had been withdrawn from caffeine for ten days and after they had consumed their normal amount of caffeine for ten days. The participants also kept a very brief record of their tinnitus symptoms each day.

 Dr Lindsay St. Claire, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Hearing and Balance Studies at the University of Bristol, and the lead researcher on the study, said “With almost 85 per cent of adults in the world consuming caffeine daily, we wanted to challenge the claim that caffeine makes tinnitus worse. Many professionals support caffeine withdrawal as a tinnitus therapy, even though there is a lack of any relevant evidence, and, in fact, acute symptoms of caffeine withdrawal might even make tinnitus worse.

 “Many other dietary restrictions are claimed to alleviate tinnitus without the support from controlled studies. Further work in this area would be of great benefit to people with tinnitus and their clinicians.”

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