Tinnitus Treatment : Is Caffeine the Key? - NexGen Hearing Clinics
Man holding his hand over his ear in discomfort

What is Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a term covering a broad range of issues resulting in ringing or buzzing in the ear. The noise you hear in your ear when you have tinnitus isn’t caused by an external sound, and other people cannot hear it. Tinnitus is a common condition, affecting about 15% to 20% of people, and is especially common in older adults. Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, but is difficult to measure as well as complicated to treat. While commonly a result of noise-related hearing loss, tinnitus has a variety of causes.

Can Caffeine Help Prevent Tinnitus?

Tinnitus affects millions of persons in North America. The ringing sounds in the ear can interfere with daily routine and quality of life. It can be a very painful and frustrating experience, and while no single cure is available for all those suffering from tinnitus, a recent research study suggests that drinking coffee may offer a peculiar brand of tinnitus treatment.

The research study, conducted by a team from the Channing Division of Network Medicine in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, studied 65,000 women between the ages of 30 to 44.5.These women were selected since they did not currently have tinnitus. They were monitored over 18 years, with approximately 5,000 women developing some form of tinnitus in the course of the study. Researchers determined that women who drank less coffee or caffeine beverages were 15% more likely to experience tinnitus than the women who drank more coffee. More on Tinnitus

While the exact cause and effect of coffee drinking upon the development of tinnitus is difficult to determine, the research does guide the way for future investigation. It is known that coffee stimulates the nervous system and clearly more data is needed to determine the nature of the relationship between coffee and the development of tinnitus. In any case, while coffee drinkers may worry about other health issues, hearing damage is not one of them!

Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus is an internal sound which can be either intermittent or continuous. Tinnitus can be high or low pitched, and in one or two ears. The volume of the sound can vary, with many people reporting it being more noticeable at night or during moments of quiet. The most common sounds heard by those suffering from tinnitus are:

  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Humming
  • Roaring
  • Whoosing

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition which is caused by underlying conditions. The most common causes of Tinnitus are:

  • Blockage or foreign objects in the ear
  • Ear infections
  • Certain medications
  • Injuries to the inner ear following surgery
  • Heart and blood flow problems

Two Types of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus, each with a different cause.

  • Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus, caused by a blood vessel disorder. These disorders can arise from head and neck tumors, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or any other malformation of your capillaries.
  • Non-pulsatile tinnitus is caused by problems in the nerves involved with hearing. This form of tinnitus is common, often coming and going. It may not require treatment, though there is no cure for tinnitus. Hearing specialists can, however, provide a variety of coping strategies to aid relief.

The Future Of Tinnitus

Tinnitus has emerged as a serious health issue for millions of people. According to the Tinnitus Association of Canada, as many as 360,000 Canadians suffer from annoying tinnitus.

While a cure is unavailable, there are methods available to help patients manage their discomfort and new approaches are emerging. For example, recently, Dr. Michael D. Seidman from the Henry Ford Hospital introduced a treatment based on vagal nerve stimulation. In this approach, a small device is surgically implanted under the skin near the collarbone. This device uses electrical impulses to send signals along the vagus nerve to the brainstem, essentially using stimuli to rewire parts of the brain, in hopes of significantly reducing or removing tinnitus.

Tinnitus negatively affects the lives of many Canadians. Patients would welcome new options and researchers like Dr. Seidman and his colleagues continue to work for solutions. Their commitment, like ours at Mainland Hearing, is to improve the patient’s quality of life. Seidman sums up his work best, stating, “That’s why we continue to work to find new treatment options for patients with tinnitus, to provide them with relief from their tinnitus and a better quality of life.” The medical community is committed to developing a range of options to allow patients to best manage their tinnitus and live more comfortably.

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