Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he migrated across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he paid a visit to (you should eat apples because they’re good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partially accurate. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed bring apples to many states across the country around the turn of the 19th century. But apples were very different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. Making hard cider, in fact, was the main use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was bringing booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (and not only in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). Conversely, humans generally enjoy feeling intoxicated.
This is not a new thing. Since humans have been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But if you have hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol use could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
Simply put, it isn’t just the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, also.
Drinking causes tinnitus
The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually verify. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. You’ve probably 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 (particularly with your eyes closed).
The spins will manifest because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body in control of balance: your inner ear.
And what else is your inner ear good for? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not hard to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that impairs the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
There are several ways that this plays out in practice:
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these are little hairs that let you sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that handle hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning correctly (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. This by itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t really enjoy being deprived of blood).
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always long-term
So if you’re out for a night on the town or getting some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are brought on by alcohol intake) are usually short-term. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll most likely start to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.
Naturally, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And if this kind of damage is repeated consistently, it may become irreversible. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Some other things are happening too
It’s not only the booze, of course. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can ultimately be life threatening, as well as worsen more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, noisy. That’s part of their… uh… charm? But when you’re 40 or older it can be a little bit too much. There’s much fun and merriment, people yelling, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. The root issue is the alcohol itself. 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 detected a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.