Coffee May Help Your Hearing, So Don't Think About Cutting Back Just Yet

Do you hear that — that ringing in your ears? There may be a way to alleviate it, and it's probably not what you think. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine, drinking coffee every day may help tinnitus, that annoying, unending ringing in your ears. And it's not just one measly cup of joe, either.

After studying more than 65,000 women, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that drinking four to five cups of coffee each day could help protect against the ringing condition, which currently has no cure. "We observed a significant inverse association between caffeine intake and the incidence of tinnitus among these women," wrote Dr. Gary Curhan, the study's senior author.

The researchers observed the women, ages 30 to 44, for 18 years. When the study first began, none of the women had tinnitus, but over the course of trial, around 5,300 cases were reported. According to the study, women who consumed 150 milligrams of caffeine each day — about one-and-a-half cups of coffee — were 15 percent more likely to have tinnitus than women who consumed about four to five cups of coffee each day, or 450 to 599 milligrams of caffeine.

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According to the National Institutes of Health, tinnitus affects about one in 10 adults in the United States each year. The common hearing disorder — often characterized as a buzzing or hissing — typically develops because of age or hearing loss, including a prolonged period of listening to loud music. It's mostly non-threatening — but there's also no known cure, so you may be stuck with it for months or years.

Caffeine may be our one saving grace. But even though the researchers concluded that a higher amount of caffeine can help women protect their hearing as they age, they still don't know for sure how or why caffeine is beneficial. Is caffeine just a magical drug that makes everything — especially weekday mornings — instantly better?

Probably not, but there's definitely something about caffeine that's worthwhile. Curhan wrote:

The reason behind this observed association is unclear. We know that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, and previous research has demonstrated that caffeine has a direct effect on the inner ear in both bench science and animal studies. Researchers note that further evidence is needed to make any recommendations about whether the addition of caffeine would improve tinnitus symptoms.

So it may be too preemptive to increase your caffeine intake, but if you find that your daily Starbucks venti black coffee makes that ringing in your ears disappear, then bring on the beans.

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