Being a coffee lover may be good for your ears, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that women who consumed higher amounts of caffeine were less likely to have tinnitus, which is a steady ringing or buzzing in the ear.
The study included more than 65,000 American women, aged 30 to 44, who did not have tinnitus in 1991 and were followed for 18 years. During that time, nearly 5,300 cases of tinnitus were reported among the women.
Women who consumed less than 150 milligrams (mg) a day of caffeine (found in about one-and-a-half 8-ounce cups of coffee) were 15 percent more likely to develop tinnitus than those who consumed 450 mg to 599 mg a day of caffeine, the investigators found.
Most of the caffeine consumed by the women was from coffee, according to the study in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine.
It's unclear why higher caffeine intake may reduce the risk of tinnitus, said study senior author Dr. Gary Curhan, a physician-researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
"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," he said in a hospital news release.
The association between caffeine intake and tinnitus seen in the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Further research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made about whether increasing caffeine intake would improve people's tinnitus symptoms, the study authors said.
By Robert Preidt