Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he migrated across the US, bringing the gift of healthy apples to every community he visited (you should eat apples because they are good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
Actually, that’s not the entire reality. The real 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 weren’t as yummy and sweet as they are now. In truth, they were generally only used for one thing: producing hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was delivering booze to every community he visited.
Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will often note some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). But many people like to get a buzz.
This isn’t new. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you have hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol intake could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
In other words, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, also.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally verify. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. You’ve probably experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever drank too much. When you’re dizzy and the room seems like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
The spins will manifest because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body responsible for balance: your inner ear.
And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can cause the spins, it’s not hard to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
The word ototoxic may sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be harmful to your hearing. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are a few ways that this occurs in practice:
- The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t particularly enjoy being deprived of blood).
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. So your brain isn’t working efficiently when alcohol is in your system (obviously, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
- The stereocilia in your ears can be compromised by alcohol (these fragile hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no coming back.
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are usually temporary
So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
These symptoms, luckily, 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.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it may become irreversible if this type of damage keeps happening continually. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Some other things are happening too
Clearly, it’s more than just the booze. The bar scene is not hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for you. 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 concerns could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit too much. There’s plenty of laughing, 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 trips.
So should you quit drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the source of the issue. So you could be doing considerable harm to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty 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.