Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he paid a visit to (you should eat apples because they are a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).
Actually, that’s not the whole truth. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact introduce apples to many states across the country around the turn of the 19th century. But apples were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (you will often experience some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). Nevertheless, humans generally enjoy feeling intoxicated.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. People have been drinking since, well, the beginning of recorded history. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being exacerbated by drinking alcohol.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only risk to the health of your hearing. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The majority of hearing specialists will tell you that drinking alcohol causes tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to accept. If you’ve ever imbibed a bit too much, you might have experienced something called “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
The spins will manifest because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body responsible for balance: your inner ear.
And what other role does your inner ear play a part in? Naturally, your hearing. So if alcohol can produce the spins, it isn’t hard to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy word for something that damages the auditory system. This includes both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are several ways that this occurs in practice:
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. So your brain isn’t working efficiently when alcohol is in your system (clearly, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain responsible for hearing).
- Alcohol can decrease flow of blood to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
- The stereocilia in your ears can be compromised by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are usually temporary
You might start to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having a few drinks with friends.
These symptoms, luckily, are usually not permanent when caused by alcohol. Your tinnitus will typically clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And it could become permanent if this kind of damage keeps happening continually. In other words, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.
Some other things are occurring too
Of course, it’s more than just the booze. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.
- Noise: Bars are typically rather noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a bit too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And all of these problems can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more significant tinnitus symptoms.
In other words, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a powerful (and risky) mix for your hearing.
Does that mean it’s time to quit drinking?
Of course, we’re not saying that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. The root issue is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be causing major issues for yourself, and for your hearing. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the right treatment.
If you’ve detected a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.