Does caffeine aggravate tinnitus?
Press release issued: 17 March 2008
Tinnitus sufferers, who live in the Bristol area, are being asked to take part in the first experimental trial to support or challenge the theory that caffeine can affect tinnitus.
The study, run by the Centre for Hearing and Balance Studies at Bristol University, will establish whether caffeine consumption affects tinnitus by carrying out a detailed analysis of the effects of caffeine withdrawal, abstinence, normal consumption and the recurrence of tinnitus symptoms.
Surprisingly, with nearly 50 per cent of the population suffering from tinnitus at some point in their lives, this is the first time a controlled study in this area has been carried out.
The study has been funded by a £55,000 grant from Deafness Research UK, a medical charity for deaf and hard of hearing people.
With almost 85 per cent of adults in the world consuming caffeine daily, the researchers wish to challenge the claim that caffeine makes tinnitus worse. 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.
Dr Lindsay St Claire, Lecturer in the Centre for Hearing and Balance Studies at the University of Bristol, and the lead researcher on the trial, said: "The research is timely because for many years, there has been a commonly held belief that caffeine is a major aggravator of tinnitus symptoms, but there is very little evidence to support this.
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to carry out a study, which has the potential to be of help to so many people."
The study will recruit caffeine consumers who sometimes experience tinnitus, which annoys them and who are willing to give up their usual caffeine-containing products during the 30-day trial. They will be assigned randomly to different experimental conditions.
The conditions are designed so that the participants will receive caffeine on some days, but not on others, but will not know which days are which. Participants will be required to complete a tinnitus questionnaire three times during the study, and to keep a very brief record of their tinnitus symptoms each day.
The final analyses will reveal whether caffeine withdrawal and abstinence reduce tinnitus, and whether caffeine reintroduction reverses this effect.
The research results should benefit both sufferers and professionals. Tinnitus sufferers should learn if and how caffeine consumption affects tinnitus. Professionals should benefit by the publication of evidence on which to base advice.
The longer-term outcomes will obviously benefit tinnitus sufferers, once it emerges which is the best strategy to alleviate symptoms.
If you are interested in taking part in the trial please contact Dr Lindsay St Claire, email email@example.com