Summary

Some people with tinnitus feel that their tinnitus is affected by the food and drinks that they consume.

There is no consistent research evidence to link particular foods or drinks to tinnitus.

If you wish to try excluding types of food or drink, this page explains the pros and cons of this approach.


Foods

A number of people with tinnitus associate fluctuations of their tinnitus with eating certain foods. However, many other people find that these same substances have no effect upon their tinnitus.

Tinnitus and general diet

Information on the internet suggests that many foods can trigger or exacerbate tinnitus. There is some weak evidence that dietary factors can have an influence on Ménière’s disease but this is generally with regard to the dizziness of Ménière’s rather than the tinnitus and is beyond the scope of this web site.

For all other types of tinnitus there is very little research to link foods to tinnitus. The research evidence that is available has significant shortcomings and there is no consistent message. Whatever reaction someone with tinnitus might notice is likely to be a personal idiosyncratic reaction.

In the absence of hard evidence it would seem sensible to follow the national healthy eating guidelines, which can be found at www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well.

Elimination diets

Unfortunately, there is no simple test for such reactions. As with other types of food intolerance the only way to investigate this is to perform a trial elimination diet.

If a food is thought to exacerbate tinnitus it should be cut out of the diet for 2 to 6 weeks and then reintroduced to see if the symptom is affected.

There are some problems associated with this approach. Firstly, the act of going on an elimination diet can encourage people to monitor their tinnitus, particularly during the reintroduction phase, which can make the tinnitus seem louder. Secondly, it is important to maintain a healthy balanced diet and excluding food groups can be dangerous.

We strongly recommend that anyone contemplating an elimination diet should discuss it with their GP and/or a dietician before proceeding.

Finally, cutting foods out of the diet means withdrawing something that might have been pleasurable previously. Removing items of food that were previously enjoyed can add to the overall burden of tinnitus.

Tinnitus and dietary supplements

There is considerable information on the internet suggesting that dietary supplements can help tinnitus.

Scientific trials are ongoing to see if combinations of vitamins and minerals can protect the auditory system from damage due to noise exposure and thereby protect against developing tinnitus in the first place.

However, for most people with pre-existing tinnitus there is no research evidence to suggest that dietary supplements have any effect. The one caveat to this statement is that there is some weak evidence to suggest that people who have a vitamin or mineral deficiency may benefit from having the deficiency corrected. If you do not have a deficiency, there is no proven benefit from taking supplements.

If you think you may have a deficiency, discuss this with your GP as there are often simple tests to prove or disprove this.

The BTA website has more detailed information regarding some of the common supplements including vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium.


Drinks

Caffeine

People with tinnitus are frequently told to avoid caffeine containing drinks such as coffee and tea.

There is no scientific rationale for this advice and several scientific studies have shown that caffeine is not associated with tinnitus causation. However, withdrawing someone from their usual intake of caffeine can produce side effects, particularly headaches and nausea, and this could potentially worsen pre-existing tinnitus.

The sensible advice regarding tea or coffee drinking therefore seems to be to stay on a fairly constant intake and not vary this too much from day to day.

Alcohol

It is often recommended that people with tinnitus should abstain from alcohol, with red wine frequently coming in for special criticism.

Once again, there seems little hard evidence to justify these statements. Multiple research projects have been published regarding alcohol and tinnitus and the consensus is that alcohol is not a risk factor for tinnitus.

This does not, of course, rule out the possibility that someone may have an idiosyncratic response to alcohol. As with foods, a trial withdrawal and reintroduction would seem to be the sensible way for an individual to establish whether alcohol is related to the level of tinnitus.

One word of caution needs to be sounded here: some people find that alcohol actually helps their tinnitus. We should all keep our alcohol consumption within safe limits and people with tinnitus are no exception to this rule.

The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This is equivalent to:

6 175ml glasses of 13% wine per week or
6 pints of 4% beer or lager per week or
5 pints of 4.5% cider per week or
14 25ml measures of 40% spirits per week

The guidelines are the same for men and women.


Tobacco

It has been known for some time that tobacco smoking can contribute to inner ear hearing loss. There is now a substantial body of research showing that smoking is also a risk factor for developing tinnitus.


For further information:

The BTA Tinnitus Support Team can answer your questions on any tinnitus related topics:

Telephone: 0800 018 0527
Web chat: - click on the icon
Email: [email protected]
Text/SMS: 07537 416841

We also offer a free tinnitus e-learning programme, Take on Tinnitus.


Download your copy of Food, drink and tinnitus:

food drink and tinnitus

Updated 14 March 2022

Author: Don McFerran, FRCS, Consultant Otolaryngologist

Version 3.1

Review date: March 2025

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash