The health benefits of coffee seem to be bottomless: A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found a jolt (or two) of java prevents women from developing tinnitus — a noise or ringing in the ears.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston followed more than 65,000 healthy women, ages 30 to 44, over the course of 18 years, and found that the more caffeine was consumed, the less tinnitus was diagnosed. While there were reports of the condition — 5,289 cases to be exact — they were limited to the women who consumed less than 150 milligrams of caffeine a day (equivalent to a cup-and-a-half). In fact, women were 15 percent more likely to develop tinnitus in comparison to woman who drank 450 to 599 milligrams a day, which is about five cups.
"The reason behind this observed association is unclear," said Dr. Gary Curhan, study co-author and a physician-researcher in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH, in a press release. "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. Researchers note that further evidence is needed to make any recommendations about whether the addition of caffeine would improve tinnitus symptoms.”
Now, don’t get us wrong: we love coffee as much as the next person. It’s just that five cups is a lot. While it probably works to protect hearing, and definitely diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and eye damage — there is such a thing as caffeine use disorder.
One study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research (seriously) found that excessive coffee drinkers experience withdrawal symptoms, like agitation and anxiety, when they don’t get their usual fix. Not to mention the overloaded effects people don’t talk about as much as they should, including psychosis, osteoporosis, and muscle spasms.
"The negative effects of caffeine are often not recognized as such because it is a socially acceptable and widely consumed drug that is well integrated into our customs and routines," said Laura Juliano, study co-author and professor at American University, in the release. "And while many people can consume caffeine without harm, for some, it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning, and can be difficult to give up, which are signs of problematic use."
With so many benefits to drinking coffee, both good and bad, what should a person’s plan of attack be? The National Institutes of Health official recommendation is limiting intake to no more than three cups per day.
Are there more than three coffee cups crowding your desk right now? Take a page from a fellow writer who weaned himself off his five-cup-a-day habit.
Source: Glicksman JT, Curhan SG, Curhan GC. A Prospective Study of Caffeine Intake and Risk of Incident Tinnitus. American Journal of Medicine. 2014.