Are There Foods to Avoid With Tinnitus?

People with tinnitus experience a sound in their ears even when there is no external source for that sound. Certain triggers may make these sounds seem louder or more frequent. Food won't necessarily trigger symptoms in all people with tinnitus, however, and the same foods may cause different reactions in different people, according to an article on the American Tinnitus Association website 1. Almost all of the studies on diet and tinnitus rely on the subjects reporting what they ate and any differences in their tinnitus symptoms, which could cause some inaccuracies or bias in the results. Figuring out how your diet affects your tinnitus may help you improve your symptoms.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Foods That Increase Blood Sugar

Increases in blood sugar or insulin levels could increase tinnitus symptoms in some people. A study published in the "International Tinnitus Journal" in 2004 found that people who followed a diet to treat high insulin levels had improvements in their symptoms compared to those who didn't follow the diet 5. Hyperinsulinemia is caused by high blood sugar levels 8. Limiting refined carbohydrates and sweets and keeping your carbohydrate intake evenly spread throughout the day may help keep blood sugar levels within the recommended levels, as can eating protein at the same time as carbohydrates.

Foods That Increase Cholesterol

Having high triglycerides, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, a combination of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome, can increase tinnitus symptoms. People suffering from tinnitus and metabolic syndrome who made dietary changes to limit cholesterol, blood sugar and triglyceride levels showed improvements in tinnitus symptoms, according to a study published in "Pro-Fono Scientific Update Magazine" in 2009 7. Likewise, a study published in the "International Tinnitus Journal" in 2007 found that following a low-cholesterol diet could improve tinnitus symptoms in people with noise-induced hearing loss 25. Animal-based foods can increase cholesterol levels, as can foods high in saturated or trans fats, so people with tinnitus may want to limit these foods in their diet, eat more plant-based protein sources and get their fat mainly from unsaturated fats.

Caffeine Considerations

Doctors often advise people with tinnitus to avoid caffeine, but this could backfire and actually make tinnitus symptoms worse due to caffeine withdrawal in some individuals, according to a study published in the "International Journal of Audiology" in January 2010 56. In this study, subjects didn't know whether they were drinking caffeinated beverages or decaffeinated beverages. Avoiding caffeine didn't improve tinnitus symptoms compared to days when caffeine was consumed. In a study published in "PLOS One" in December 2014, drinking caffeinated coffee actually improved symptoms in some people with persistent tinnitus but increased symptoms in people with transient tinnitus.

Other Potential Foods

Some people experience problems with food allergens and foods containing salicylates, such as:

  • tea
  • tomatoes
  • berries
  • almonds
  • peaches

Keeping a food diary and noting any symptoms you experience can help you determine whether particular foods cause your symptoms to worsen. Then you can try eliminating these foods to see if symptoms improve and adding them back in to verify that symptoms worsen when you eat them.