Tinnitus is described as an unexplained ringing in the ear that actually affects one in five people – that’s over 50 million people in the United States alone. Some cases of tinnitus are mild, happening infrequently enough that the victim doesn’t even realize they have the condition, but some cases of tinnitus are severe enough to give sufferers reason to contemplate suicide.
The Mayo Clinic doesn’t describe tinnitus as a condition itself, but rather a symptom of another condition such as age related hearing loss or a circulatory disorder. Sufferers of tinnitus hear an intermittent or constant ringing, hissing, whistling or a number of other sounds.
While there is currently no cure for tinnitus there may be a prevention, or a vaccine of sorts: coffee.
In a new study on tinnitus written about in the August edition of the American Journal of Medicine, the lifestyles and medical histories of over 65,000 younger and middle-aged women were studied starting in 1976. The women self-reported their data. When a group of 30 to 44 year-old women – all without tinnitus in 1991 – came back for a followup visit, 5,289 cases of the symptom came up. What was the difference between those that developed tinnitus and those that didn’t?
Gary Curhan, MD, ScD, senior author of the report and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, gave the results:
“We observed a significant inverse association between caffeine intake and the incidence of tinnitus among these women.”
Those women who had much higher intakes of caffeine between visits, had strikingly fewer developments of tinnitus. Women who drank no more than one and a half cups of coffee per day had a 15% higher chance of developing tinnitus than women who drank four and a half to six cups of coffee per day.
Though this study didn’t examine whether or not those who already have tinnitus might benefit from increasing their caffeine intake, the American Tinnitus Association actually prescribes tinnitus sufferers to lower their caffeine intake.
Clearly, this most recent tinnitus study will encourage more research between the effects of caffeine and the symptom. Whether you increase your level of caffeine or not, there are other recommended ways to avoid getting tinnitus in the first place. Exposure to loud noises – such as concerts or working in a factory or even using a hand drill – can damage the ears and bring on tinnitus. The Centers for Disease Control dictates that anything over 85 decibels can severely hurt your hearing and bring on early tinnitus.
Again, there is no present cure for tinnitus, but you might want to go ahead and have another cup of joe to prevent it!
Image via SodaHead