Tinnitus is the presence of a high-pitched ringing or buzzing in one or both ears when there is no real sound.
Increasing evidence suggests that both hearing loss and tinnitus may be influenced by lifestyle factors such as diet.
This article explains the link between tinnitus and diet and what a tinnitus diet might include.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, whistling, clicking, or other phantom sounds (1).
The noise isn’t caused by an external source, so other people usually can’t hear it.
It can be intermittent or continuous and is often worse in situations where the background noise is low.
Noise trauma to the sensory hair cells in the inner ear is the most common cause of tinnitus (1).
Tinnitus commonly occurs in people with Meniere’s disease.
Heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes as well as the use of certain medications like high doses of aspirin are also associated with the onset of tinnitus.
Although tinnitus is generally harmless, it can cause hearing loss, problems with focusing, and interfere with sleep.
Tinnitus may go away on its own for some people but others may experience symptoms that last six months or longer (2).
There are many management options for tinnitus, which, when possible, focus on treating the underlying cause or masking the noise, making it less noticeable.
Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other phantom noises that no one else hears. The sound may persist all the time, or it may come and go. Tinnitus may go away on its own or persist for six months or longer.
The link between tinnitus and diet
Certain foods and individual nutrients have been linked with tinnitus improvement or worsening.
In one study, the diets of nearly 35,000 adults aged 40 to 69 years from the United Kingdom were analyzed to determine a potential link between nutrient intake and tinnitus (3).
The study found that higher intakes of calcium, iron, and fat were associated with an increased risk of developing tinnitus while higher intakes of vitamin B12 and protein were associated with a decreased risk of developing the condition.
The study also found that higher intakes of vitamin D and dietary patterns rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein were associated with reduced odds of hearing difficulties, a common occurrence in people with tinnitus.
A dietary pattern rich in saturated fat, however, was associated with an increased risk of hearing difficulties.
The findings from this study are in line with several others.
For example, in a study involving children, higher intakes of white bread, carbonated beverages, and fast food were associated with constant tinnitus, while fresh fruit and vegetables were associated with reduced tinnitus frequency (4).
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and fiber, which may offer protective effects against tinnitus, especially in those who have conditions associated with tinnitus, like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglycerides (5).
The researchers concluded that a higher intake of fiber may reduce the risk of tinnitus by supporting heart health.
So while there’s no specific tinnitus diet, several foods may decrease your risk for tinnitus or improve your symptoms.
Observational research suggests that a diet low in saturated fat and high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber from fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of tinnitus and support hearing health.
Foods for tinnitus and hearing health
Diets rich in fiber, antioxidants, and certain vitamins like vitamin D and vitamin B12 may decrease your risk for tinnitus and hearing impairment.
Examples of foods rich in these nutrients include:
- Fruits: apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, grapes, melons, etc.
- Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, salad greens, tomatoes, etc.
- Whole grains: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole-grain bread and pasta
- Legumes: beans, peas, and lentils
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc.
- Dairy and dairy alternatives: low-sugar yogurt, milk, and unsweetened dairy alternatives rich in protein and fortified with vitamin D like soy milk
- Seafood: fatty fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna
- Poultry: eggs and skinless chicken turkey
- Meats: lean cuts of beef or pork that contain the words “loin” or “round”
- Beverages: coffee, tea, water, and other sugar-free beverages
Consuming a diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 may protect against tinnitus and support hearing health.
Food to limit or avoid for tinnitus and hearing health
Foods rich in saturated fats, added sugars, and refined grains have been associated with an increased risk of tinnitus and hearing difficulties, possibly due to their pro-inflammatory effects.
Here are examples of foods to limit or avoid:
- Added sugars: candy, cakes, flavored yogurt, ice cream and other dairy desserts
- Fried food: cheese curds, chicken strips, fish, french fries, etc.
- Refined grains: bakery items, breakfast cereals, and white flour, rice, bread, and pasta
- Sugary beverages: regular soda, energy and sports drinks, specialty coffee drinks
However, in people who regularly consume caffeine, withdrawal from the stimulant may worsen tinnitus symptoms (9).
The relationship between alcohol use and tinnitus or hearing health isn’t well-known, but it’s wise to moderate your intake of alcohol as well if you choose to drink.
Diets rich in saturated fats, added sugars, and refined grains may increase your risk of tinnitus and impair hearing health.
3-day sample tinnitus diet menu
Here’s a 3-day sample menu of what a tinnitus diet might look like:
- Breakfast: oatmeal topped with berries
- Lunch: steak fajita bowl
- Snack: Greek yogurt and orange slices
- Dinner: pork loin, quinoa, and sauteed carrots
Day 2 (vegan)
- Breakfast: vegan overnight oats
- Lunch: black bean salad
- Snack: apple slices and a palmful of walnuts
- Dinner: chickpea salad sandwich
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may want to consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
- Breakfast: cottage cheese toast topped with cucumber slices
- Lunch: grilled chicken and avocado salad
- Snack: roasted chickpeas and grapes
- Dinner: grilled salmon, brown rice, and green beans
Use this sample tinnitus diet menu to guide your menu planning and food choices.
Supplements for tinnitus and hearing loss
Several supplements have been purported to improve tinnitus symptoms.
The most common include (10):
- Ginkgo biloba
- vitamin B12
Although there is limited evidence to support these supplements for improving tinnitus or supporting hearing health, some may be worth trying (10).
For example, one study found melatonin when taken at a dose of 3 mg daily for three months effective for improving tinnitus severity (11).
Melatonin promotes sleep so it’s best to take it within 30–60 minutes of bedtime.
Find melatonin in a 3 mg dose on Amazon.
Another study found a supplement containing the extract of the antioxidant acai beneficial for reducing tinnitus severity when taken at a dose of 100 mg daily for three months (12).
This acai extract product on Amazon provides 100 mg per capsule.
There’s limited evidence to support the use of dietary supplements for improving tinnitus severity or improving hearing health. However, certain ones like melatonin or acai extract may be worth trying.
The bottom line
Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other phantom noises that no one else can hear.
While there is no specific tinnitus diet, several observational studies have identified foods and nutrients that may protect against tinnitus and support hearing health, in part by improving conditions linked with tinnitus like high cholesterol or blood pressure.
These foods and nutrients include fruits, vegetables, fiber, and vitamins B12 and D.
In contrast, foods rich in saturated fats, added sugars, and refined grains may increase your risk for tinnitus and impair hearing health.
In addition to diet, supplementing with melatonin or acai extract may also improve tinnitus symptoms.