Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
Actually, that’s not the whole reality. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact bring apples to many parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as they are now. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed visited was gifted with booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will frequently experience some of these health symptoms immediately when you feel hungover). But many people like to get a buzz.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. People have been drinking since, well, the beginning of recorded history. But if you have hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol consumption could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
Simply put, it’s not just the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally confirm. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to accept. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. That’s when 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 other role does your inner ear take a part in? Naturally, your ability to hear. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not a surprise that you may have also experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
The word ototoxic may sound intimidating, but it simply indicates something that can be harmful to your hearing. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are a few ways that this plays out in practice:
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those delicate hairs are compromised, there’s no coming back.
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. So your brain isn’t working properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always long-term
So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you might notice yourself developing some symptoms.
These symptoms, luckily, are generally 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 could become permanent if this kind of damage keeps occurring continually. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly occur.
Some other things are occurring too
It isn’t just the alcohol, of course. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Even when you put the hearing loss factor aside, drinking is rather bad for you. Alcohol abuse can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, 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 bit too much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of laughing. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
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?
Of course, we’re not saying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the root of the issue. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be creating significant issues for yourself, and for your hearing. 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.