Tinnitus, food and drink
Exploring the research around potential triggers.
There is no consistent research which proves that certain food or drinks influence the severity of tinnitus.
If you have done an internet search for tinnitus you will have found many results claiming a link with particular foods – both good and bad. Some people with tinnitus do feel that what they consume affects their condition and make changes to their diet in order to manage this.
Here, we look at some of the common factors so you can decide what is right for you. Eliminating food and drink from your diet to identify a link can be a difficult process. This page also looks at the pros and cons of this approach.
A number of people connect the ups and downs of their tinnitus with eating certain foods. However, many other people find that these same substances have no effect upon their tinnitus.
There is some weak evidence that dietary factors can have an influence on Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear. But this is generally with regard to the dizziness of Ménière’s rather than the tinnitus.
For all other types of tinnitus, the links are unproven and the research presents some contradictory findings. Many of the links seem to show only a minor change in risk, so it seems likely that general diet is not a major contributor to tinnitus.
Instead, follow a balanced diet which promotes good general health.
Despite the lack of evidence of universal triggers, we do recognise that some people notice a link between certain foods and their tinnitus.
Unfortunately, there is no simple test to prove such reactions. As with other types of food intolerance, the only way to investigate this is to perform a trial elimination diet. This involves completely removing the suspected food type from your diet for 2-6 weeks. And then reintroducing it to see if your tinnitus is affected.
There are some problems associated with this approach. Firstly, going on an elimination diet can mean that you monitor your tinnitus more closely than normal, particularly during the reintroduction phase. This can make the tinnitus seem louder. Secondly, excluding food groups can be dangerous and should only be done after discussion with your GP and/or a dietician. Finally, removing items of food that were previously enjoyed can add to the overall burden of tinnitus.
We understand that you may be searching for something you can do to ease your tinnitus. It is natural to be looking for a way to control it. Our Tinnitus Support Team cannot offer medical advice but are available to listen and support you when needed.
The dietary supplement industry is a huge global business, and research has shown that around a quarter of people with tinnitus used dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbal medicines in an attempt to treat their tinnitus.
However, for most people with tinnitus there is no research evidence to suggest that dietary supplements have any effect. There is some weak evidence to suggest that people who have a vitamin or mineral deficiency may benefit from having the deficiency corrected. If you do not have a deficiency, there is no proven benefit from taking supplements.
If you think you may have a deficiency, discuss this with your GP as there are often simple tests to prove or disprove this.
People with tinnitus are frequently advised to avoid drinks containing caffeine such as tea and coffee. There is no scientific basis for this advice. Several large scientific reviews have shown that caffeine is not associated with the causes of tinnitus.
The sensible advice regarding tea or coffee drinking therefore seems to be maintain a moderate and constant intake.
If you are worried about your caffeine intake and want to cut it out of your diet, remember that this can produce side effects, particularly headaches and nausea, which could potentially worsen your tinnitus.
People with tinnitus often ask us if they should stop drinking alcohol. Red wine is especially reported as a concern.
Once again, there seems little hard evidence for this. Multiple research projects have been published regarding alcohol and tinnitus and the consensus is that alcohol is not a risk factor for tinnitus.
This does not, of course, rule out the possibility that you might have a personal response to alcohol. As with foods, a trial withdrawal and reintroduction may help to establish whether alcohol is related to your level of tinnitus.
Some people find that alcohol actually helps their tinnitus. To maintain good health, we should all keep our alcohol consumption within safe limits. The government advises that this means not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This is equivalent to:
- 6 175ml glasses of 13% wine per week or
- 6 pints of 4% beer or lager per week or
- 5 pints of 4.5% cider per week or
- 14 25ml measures of 40% spirits per week
The guidelines are the same for men and women.
It has been known for some time that tobacco smoking can contribute to inner ear hearing loss. There is now a substantial body of research showing that smoking is also a risk factor for developing tinnitus.