Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you likely heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).
That’s only somewhat true. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to lots of states across the country at about the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as yummy and sweet as modern apples. Making hard cider, in fact, was the main use of apples.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.
Humans have a complicated relationship with alcohol. It’s not good for your health to start with (you will frequently experience some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). On the other hand, humans typically enjoy feeling inebriated.
This isn’t a new thing. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But it may be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by alcohol consumption.
In other words, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the cocktails.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol can trigger tinnitus. That’s not really that difficult to believe. If you’ve ever imbibed a bit too much, you may have encountered something known as “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room seems like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body in control of balance, tinnitus can manifest.
And what else is your inner ear used for? Naturally, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not a surprise that you may have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
The word ototoxic may sound scary, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
There are several ways that this occurs in practice:
- The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that handle hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these fragile hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no repairing them.
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always permanent
You might begin 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 related to alcohol intake) are usually short-term. Your tinnitus will typically go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And if this kind of damage is repeated consistently, it may become permanent. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Here are some other things that are taking place
It isn’t just the alcohol, of course. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.
- Noise: Bars are normally rather noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a bit too much. There’s much fun and merriment, people talking, and loud music. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
- Alcohol leads to other issues: Even when you put the hearing loss factor aside, drinking is pretty bad for you. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
The point is, there are significant risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
So should you stop drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the root of the problem. So if you’re having trouble moderating your alcohol intake, you could be creating major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. Your doctor 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.