Does Coffee Affect Hearing?

According to the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, caffeine could make it harder to recover from temporary hearing loss.

Imagine waking up the morning after a long, loud day. Maybe you're a contractor working on a building with lots of loud machinery. Maybe you got to see your favorite band perform live and spent the night singing and dancing. In either scenario, you'll probably suffer from a bit of temporary hearing loss. You'd get out of bed, slightly disoriented, and ponder how to restore your hearing over a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, that morning Joe probably isn't making things better. In fact, according to the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, the caffeine could make it harder for you to recover.

Recovering from hearing loss?

As the researchers explained, everyday situations like work and social gatherings can create noise that’s loud enough to damage your hearing. "When the ear is exposed to loud noise, it can suffer from a temporary hearing reduction, also called auditory temporary threshold shift," said Dr. Faisal Zawawi, a member of the team that conducted the study. "This disorder is usually reversible in the first 72 hours after the exposure."

That reversal appears to be affected by caffeine. Researchers exposed two groups of animals to sounds of 110 decibels - the noise level of a concert - for one hour. One group was given caffeine each day afterward, while the other was not. Rates of hearing loss among the two groups were similar the first day after being exposed to noise. However, after slightly more than a week had passed, hearing among the caffeine-free group had noticeably improved. The others weren't so lucky.

Researchers admitted that further testing is needed to truly understand how caffeine affects hearing loss recovery in humans, but they also expressed worry that the rising rates of hearing loss and high rate of caffeine consumption could spell trouble.

A potentially widespread problem

About 37.5 million American adults - 15 percent of the demographic - have some form of hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, hearing loss and tinnitus are becoming more commonplace among children and teens thanks to headphones. While hearing loss is increasing, caffeine consumption shows no signs of stopping. A Gallup poll found 64 percent of Americans drink one or more cups of coffee per day.000666-0013-000210.jpg

In fact, consumption is so high that it averages to about three cups per person.These findings have remained generally the same since 1999. Coffee drinkers tend to be older - 74 percent of people 55 and above drink it daily compared to 50 percent of those ages 18 to 34. Additionally, although 26 percent of coffee drinkers consider themselves caffeine addicts, only 10 percent would like to cut back. Researchers will continue to explore the effects of caffeine on hearing over time. If you've recently been somewhere noisy, it might be a good idea to lay off the coffee for at least a few days.

If you want to learn more about how your hearing works, hearing loss and hearing aids, how hearing aids work or why it is a good idea to see an audiologist or hearing health care professional, click here to view and download your own copy of AccuQuest's Journey to Better Hearing.

According to the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, caffeine could make it harder to recover from temporary hearing loss.