Fact Or Fiction: Does Salt Make Tinnitus Worse?

Fact Or Fiction: Does Salt Make Tinnitus Worse?

If you struggle with tinnitus, you may have heard your physician tell you to avoid salt – as well as caffeine, alcohol, and a few other favorite vices. We’re here to break down the science behind those recommendations. Is it really worth avoiding the extra dash of flavor in hopes of limiting tinnitus spikes?

Dr. Michelle explains how salt affects tinnitus

When Did Salt Become Connected To Tinnitus?

Like so much of modern medicine, we can trace origins of this correlation back to ancient Greece. Rufus of Ephesus was a Greek physician who first shared detailed descriptions of human anatomy, coining many of the words still used for various parts of the body, including the ear. Importantly, he also (rightly) theorized that nutrition had an outsized role in health, with certain foods influencing a wide range of physiological symptoms. 

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Fast forward to the present, and Rufus’ ideas still permeate behaviors around health. Indeed, most of us are all too familiar with advice to eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away, or find ourselves nursing a cup of chicken soup to cure the common cold. 

To be sure, nutrition and health are inextricably tied. But what about salt and tinnitus? And isn’t the stress of cutting back on favorite foods or avoiding dinners with friends because you may experience a tinnitus flare-up just as bad for your health? 

The Data

Turns out that a direct link between salt (or caffeine) and tinnitus is pretty weak. 

Some tinnitus sufferers anecdotally report that reducing their salt intake has resulted in some easing of symptoms. Unfortunately, studies find little cause and effect. In one 2016 study, individuals with Meniere’s disease who followed a salt-restricted diet were not found to effectively control the symptoms of their tinnitus. A 2018 review of studies evaluating the effect of diet on symptoms of Meniere’s disease, which include tinnitus, did not find any good-quality study that looked at the effect of salt on symptoms.

Tinnitus may be a manifestation of other conditions, like Meniere’s Disease. Meniere’s is an audiological disorder caused by an abnormality in part of the inner ear called the labyrinth. Fluid build-up causes a severe spinning sensation (vertigo), and can affect hearing, balance, and tinnitus. 

So when patients suffering from other illnesses reduce salt, it may have an effect on the root condition and therefore lower the volume in your ears. 

Most likely, however, is that reducing salt, caffeine, and alcohol is just plain better for your health. 

If you’ve ever glanced at food packaging, you know that recommended daily sodium intake shouldn’t exceed 2,000 mg. When it comes to auditory health, this is because lower levels of salt are thought to improve the endolymphatic pressure or fluid pressure in the inner ear. 

As for heart health, the evidence of salt and cardiac wellness is overwhelming. And given that many tinnitus sufferers are middle-aged (when cardiac conditions are likely to arise), it’s unsurprising that improving overall health would have a buoying effect on mood and outlook. Cutting back sodium has measurable impacts on conditions like hypertension and weight management. The same is true for the benefits of reducing caffeine and alcohol. While mild consumption is acceptable, decreasing consumption of moderate or high levels can yield immediate boosts in health outcomes, health metrics, temperament, and even weight. This, in turn, reduces stress, and therefore may reduce tinnitus symptoms.

So while the research is varied and has yet to show a strong relationship between nutrition and tinnitus, there are other healthy benefits to be gleaned for striving for a more balanced and greener diet, which includes healthy amounts of sodium


So our advice? Before you abandon your morning cup of coffee or an extra dash of flavor on your baked potato – experiment. If you find that the additives trigger an uncomfortable increase to your tinnitus, then you may be amongst the hypersensitive to sodium and caffeine and should probably try to limit consumption. On the other hand, if you don’t notice any measurable change in symptoms, then enjoy a tasty treat. We do know that reducing stress is definitely correlated to tinnitus relief, so feel free to consider your salty foods part of the healing journey, within reason of course. 

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