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Can Drinking Caffeine Permanently Damage Your Hearing?

by April Maguire

In order to get through the day, most of us consume caffeine in one form or another, whether it’s from coffee, soda or energy drinks. But is it possible that ingesting all of that caffeine could be damaging your hearing? As it turns out, the answer is yes, at least according to a new study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association."

Based on the results from the study, it seems that caffeine can impair the body's ability to recover after being exposed to loud noises. So if you're among the almost 80% of the adult population that drinks caffeine on a regular basis, the results of this study could have a noticeable impact on your life.

Making Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Worse

Hearing experts and researchers around the globe have recently been warning us about an epidemic of noise-induced hearing loss. This type of hearing loss stems from the receptors in your ears being exposed to excessively loud sounds for prolonged periods of time. In decades past, the greatest risk for noise-induced hearing loss occurred in loud music venues, clubs or even on noisy job sites, but the popularity of personal listening devices over the last 20 years has caused the incidence rate to skyrocket.

Luckily, our bodies are capable of repairing at least some of the damage that is brought about by exposure to loud noises. Unfortunately, this natural reparative process is interrupted if you have caffeine coursing through your system. And if your body is unable to recover from hearing damage shortly after it occurs, then the damage sadly becomes permanent.

The Study

For the study, the research team at the McGill University Health Centre exposed two different groups of guinea pigs to bursts of excessively loud noise. One group of guinea pigs was dosed with caffeine, while the control group was not. Over the course of the next two weeks, researchers observed the animals and found that, shockingly, the guinea pigs that were given caffeine failed to regain their lost hearing.

Specifically, the researchers pointed to the first 72 hours following the hearing damage as an important window. During this time, the body typically is able to reverse any loss in hearing, but the presence of caffeine in the guinea pigs' systems slowed down that recovery, leaving the body no way to correct the damage.

So what does this mean for those of us who regularly drink caffeine? Since the study was done on guinea pigs, the researchers are quick to note that human trials need to be performed before they can draw any concrete conclusions. But in the meantime, if you're planning to go to a concert in the near future, it may be a good idea to skip the post-show coffee.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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