Some people avoid cake and candy. Many forgo their morning coffee, or switch to decaf. For others, it’s a wistful glance at a bag of potato chips as they walk on by. Whatever your particular “trigger” food is, you’re one of millions who have noticed a definite link between the foods you eat and the loudness of the ringing in your ears.
Is There a Link Between Diet and Tinnitus?
Tinnitus, or persistent head noise, is a curious condition with a wide variety of causes and symptoms. While there are no foods that cause tinnitus, there may be a few that can make tinnitus louder or nearly unbearable for many sufferers, including:
- Coffee. Many tinnitus sufferers have stopped drinking coffee at the suggestion of their doctors. Stress is a known aggravator of tinnitus, and increased caffeine can trigger stress responses. However, new research indicates that reducing caffeine intake may not relieve tinnitus—and caffeine withdrawal tends to worsen the problem.
- Salt. Sodium has been proven to aggravate tinnitus, and for a fairly obvious reason: excess salt leads to higher blood pressure. As the blood vessels constrict, blood has a harder time circulating freely—and in the ears, the blood and heartbeat can actually be heard as tinnitus becomes louder. Many people who reduce their sodium intake by cutting out salty snacks and processed foods report a decrease in tinnitus sounds.
- Saturated fats. Cheese, butter, red meat, and other saturated fats increase cholesterol levels, and over time can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a known contributing factor to tinnitus, as well as increasing a patient’s risk factor of heart disease and strokes.
- Sugars. Patients who have diabetic symptoms are more likely to notice an increase in tinnitus when they eat sugary foods, such as chocolate or candy. The eyes, ears, and brain all depend on oxygen and glucose (sugar) from a person’s blood supply—and hearing can be affected as glucose levels rise.
- Alcohol. Some tinnitus patients have reported that they cannot drink as much—or at all—due to the effect it has on their tinnitus. Alcoholic beverages contain sugar, cause dehydration, and increase blood pressure, all of which can make tinnitus more noticeable.
What Does the Science Say?
Medical opinions differ on whether diet impacts tinnitus. The research on the subject is currently sparse, so it is up to each patient to determine whether a dietary change could improve symptoms. The important thing to remember is that all bodies react to chemicals differently. If you notice that a food or drink is aggravating your tinnitus, consult with your doctor to see if there could be a connection. If your tinnitus is more noticeable the next time you eat the food, you can choose to avoid it completely or enjoy it once in a while.
In addition to seeing your doctor about your diet, you should also have your condition evaluated by a hearing specialist. Call the number on this page to make an appointment with our hearing care providers today!