Do you recall the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he traveled across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he visited (you should eat apples because they are a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partly accurate. Around 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 truth, they were mainly only utilized for one thing: creating hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was bringing booze to every community he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It isn’t good for your health to start with (and not only in the long term, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But it may be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by drinking alcohol.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only danger to your hearing health. It’s the beer, too.
Drinking causes tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally validate. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you may have experienced 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 in control of balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other role does your inner ear play 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.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
The word ototoxic may sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. This includes both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are several ways that this occurs in practice:
- Alcohol can decrease flow of blood to your inner ear. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially enjoy being deprived of blood).
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning correctly (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
- Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these are fragile 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 coming back.
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 may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are related to alcohol intake) are usually short-term. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll likely begin 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 return to normal. And if this type of damage is repeated routinely, it could become irreversible. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Here are a couple of other things that are happening
It isn’t just the booze, however. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, loud. That’s part of their… uh… charm? Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a bit too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people talking, and loud music. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Even when you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health problems could be the outcome.
The point is, there are serious risks 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 answer here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be creating major issues for yourself, and for your hearing. You should speak with your physician about how you can get treatment, and start on the path to being healthy again.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.