The impact of dietary factors on tinnitus has received limited research attention, despite being a considerable concern among people with tinnitus and clinicians. The objective was to examine the link between dietary factors and presence and severity of tinnitus.
This study used the UK Biobank resource, a large cross-sectional study of adults aged 40-69. 171,722 eligible participants were asked questions specific to tinnitus (defined as noises such as ringing or buzzing in the head or ears). Dietary factors included portions of fruit and vegetables per day, weekly fish consumption (oily and non-oily), bread type, cups of caffeinated coffee per day, and avoidance of dairy, eggs, wheat and sugar. We controlled for lifestyle, noise exposure, hearing, personality and comorbidity factors.
Persistent tinnitus, defined as present at least a lot of the time, was elevated with increased: (i) fruit/vegetable intake (OR = 1.01 per portion/day), (ii) bread (wholemeal/wholegrain, OR = 1.07; other bread, 1.20) and (iii) dairy avoidance (OR = 1.27). Persistent tinnitus was reduced with: (i) fish consumption (non-oily, OR = 0.91; oily, 0.95), (ii) egg avoidance (OR = 0.87) and (iii) caffeinated coffee consumption (OR = 0.99 per cup/day). Reports of “bothersome” tinnitus (moderate-severe handicap) increased with wholemeal/wholegrain bread intake (OR = 0.86). Reports of less frequent transient tinnitus increased with dairy avoidance (OR = 1.18) and decreased with caffeinated coffee (OR = 0.98 per cup/day) and brown bread (OR = 0.94).
This is the first population study to report the association between dietary factors and tinnitus. Although individually dietary associations are mostly modest, particular changes in diet, such as switching between foodstuffs, may result in stronger associations. These findings offer insights into possible dietary associations with tinnitus, and this may be useful when discussing management options in combination with other lifestyle changes and therapies.