Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled across the US, bringing the gift of healthy 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).
That’s only partly true. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact present apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as they are now. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing 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 experience some of these health problems immediately when you feel hungover). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Humanity has been imbibing since, well, the dawn of recorded time. But if you’re dealing with hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol intake could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
Put simply, it isn’t just the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s also the cocktails.
Drinking alcohol causes tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually verify. That isn’t really that difficult to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you might have encountered something known as “the spins”. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially with your eyes closed).
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other function does your inner ear play a part in? Naturally, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not a surprise that you might have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy word for something that harms the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
Here are a few ways this can play out:
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t working efficiently when alcohol is in your system (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
- Alcohol can decrease blood flow to your inner ear. The deficiency of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are little hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are usually temporary
You might begin to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are caused by alcohol intake) are typically temporary. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll most likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And it may become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps happening continually. In other words, it’s completely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.
Some other things are occurring too
Of course, it’s more than simply the booze. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Noise: Bars are normally pretty loud. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little 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.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health concerns could be the result.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
So should you quit drinking?
Obviously, we’re not implying that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be causing major problems 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.