The debate about coffee is on-going. Every year, there are studies that claim coffee is good for you and there are studies that claim coffee is bad for you. For some, the morning cannot possibly begin with coffee, while others rely on a boost in the middle of the afternoon.
One new study does not make any sweeping claims about caffeine, but it does hone in on one particular aspect of your health: your hearing. From McGill University Health Centre, researchers have found that “daily consumption of caffeine can impair recovery after temporary hearing damage.”
Let’s take a closer look at temporary hearing damage and caffeine consumption.
What is Temporary Hearing Damage?
It is commonly understood that hearing loss is a permanent condition, but temporary hearing loss may occur after exposure to loud noise or an illness. Noise-induced hearing loss, which occurs after exposure to excessive sound over 85 decibels, is a condition that could be temporary or permanent, depending on the noise level and your exposure time and proximity to the noise. Some people have experienced a “stuffy” feeling in the ears after a cold or ear infection or earwax buildup, which also interferes with the ability to hear. Certain medications also have the potential to damage your hearing; these drugs are referred to as ototoxic as they “poison” your ear.
Temporary hearing damage may or may not lead to long-term, permanent hearing loss, but it does require some attention. If you’re in an environment with excessively loud noise, it is important to take a break and move to a quieter place. If you listen to music at home on speakers or headphones, make sure you’re listening at reasonable volumes. Hearing specialists recommend listening at 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. The use of ear protection, whether custom or generic earplugs, also helps mitigate any damage to your hearing from exposure to loud noise.
According to Healthy Hearing, “Since so many different issues can lead to temporary hearing loss, it’s important for you to find out what’s causing it and get the underlying condition treated. Not all hearing loss can be corrected; however, the only way to know for sure is to contact a hearing center for an evaluation.”
The Link Between Caffeine & Temporary Hearing Loss
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a new study from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre found that “daily consumption of caffeine can impair recovery after temporary hearing damage.” We are exposed to sounds on a daily basis, and because our ears never “shut off,” we must take precaution when we enter environments with exceedingly loud sounds.
Says Dr. Faisal Zawawi, “When the ear is exposed to loud noise, it can suffer from a temporary hearing reduction, also called auditory temporary threshold shift. The disorder is usually reversible in the first 72 hours after the exposure, but if symptoms persist, the damage could become permanent.” Furthermore, Dr. Zawawi and his fellow researchers began to “suspect that certain substances, such as caffeine, might impact the ear’s ability to recover.” The link presented itself to researchers as caffeine intake is common in areas where noise levels might be exceedingly loud, from cafes to music venues.
For the study, researchers exposed two animal test groups to sounds at 110 decibels for an hour, with one group receiving caffeine and the other remaining caffeine-free. In eight days, they found that the caffeine-free group’s hearing recovered almost completely, while the group given caffeine continued to experience hearing impairment. The study has not been performed on humans, but it did confirm that “exposure to loud auditory stimuli coupled with daily consumption of 25 mg/kg of caffeine had a clear negative impact on hearing recovery,” Dr. Zawawi says.
Protect Your Hearing
If you are exposed to loud noise on a regular basis, whether in the workplace or in your leisure activities, take precautions to protect your hearing. Use ear protection and be sure to take frequent breaks from excessive noise. While results are not definitive, it may help to curb your caffeine intake if you are consistently exposed to loud noise. Caffeine is present not only in coffee, but in soft drinks, tea, and energy drinks as well. Health professionals recommend a maximum daily intake of 3mg/kg of caffeine (three 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee); beware energy drinks that contain up to 200mg of caffeine.
Part of a healthy hearing regimen is taking an annual hearing test. Visit us at Hearing Health in Portland, OR today for a test and consultation.