Caffeine and Hearing Loss
Bad news for coffee lovers. A new study done by scientists at McGill University in Canada has linked coffee and hearing loss. The study focused on a particular kind of hearing loss called noise-induced hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have this kind of hearing loss, which is caused by frequent exposure to loud noise, either at work or during leisure activities (like concert-going). When the body is exposed to loud noises, it has a natural ability to recover its hearing capacity within about 72 hours. However, if the damage was severe enough, the noise-induced hearing loss may be permanent.
McGill’s study involved three groups of guinea pigs, two of which were given the equivalent of one cup of coffee every day for 15 days, and one of which not given any coffee. Then, one group of the caffeinated guinea pigs and one group of non-caffeinated guinea pigs were exposed to one hour of loud noises (in the 110 decibel range) one two separate days about a week apart.
As it turned out, of the two groups which were exposed to the loud noises, the group that was not given the coffee had recovered their hearing almost completely seven days later. By contrast, the group that was given coffee did not recover a lot of their hearing range. The study authors concluded that caffeine consumption, even in small doses like a single cup of coffee a day, can reduce the body’s ability to recover from noise-induced hearing loss. Since 54% of Americans drink coffee every day, this puts a lot of us at risk for the most common kind of hearing loss there is.
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is the only kind of hearing loss that is directly and completely preventable. Simply understanding what noises are dangerous (anything above 85 decibels, or about the loudness of a hammer or a vacuum cleaner) and avoiding them, or wearing earplugs or other ear protection during exposure to such loud noises, will prevent any noise-induced damage.
For more on the different types of hearing loss and what can or cannot be prevented, check out our blog called the 4 Types of Hearing Loss.