Remember the old story 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’re a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partly accurate. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. In fact, they were mostly only used for one thing: creating hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (you will frequently experience some of these health symptoms immediately when you feel hungover). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This is not new. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by alcohol consumption.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only risk to the health of your hearing. It’s also the drinks.
Drinking alcohol triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically validate. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you may have experienced something known as “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s known as “the spins”.
The spins will occur because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body in control of balance: your inner ear.
And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can produce the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that harms the auditory system. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
There are several ways that this plays out in practice:
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are fragile hairs that let you sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). Once those delicate hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t functioning properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
- The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always long-term
You may start to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having a few drinks with friends.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are caused by alcohol intake) are typically temporary. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll most likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will decline.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And if this kind of damage is repeated routinely, it may become permanent. 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.
A couple of other things are happening too
Of course, it’s more than simply the liquor. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol causes other issues: 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 more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are normally rather noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a bit much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
The point is, there are significant risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
So should you stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not saying that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So you could be doing considerable harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.