Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled across the US, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he paid a visit to (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).
Actually, that’s not the entire truth. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to many states across the country at about the turn of the 19th century. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. In fact, they were generally only utilized for one thing: making hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was delivering booze to every community he visited.
Humans have a complicated relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will frequently notice some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). But many people like to get a buzz.
This is not a new thing. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it may 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 your hearing health. It’s the beer, also.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically confirm. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. You’ve likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially when you close your eyes).
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what else is your inner ear good for? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it isn’t a surprise that you might have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
The word ototoxic may sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- 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 convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working efficiently (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are impacted).
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t necessarily permanent
You may begin to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
These symptoms, thankfully, are usually not permanent when caused by alcohol. Your tinnitus will usually clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And it may become permanent if this type of damage keeps happening repeatedly. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Here are a couple of other things that are happening
Clearly, it’s more than simply the liquor. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for you. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more significant tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: Bars are typically pretty loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
In other words, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your hearing.
Does that mean it’s time to quit drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re recommending. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the root of the issue. So you could be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your drinking. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the correct treatment.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.