Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he migrated across the US, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he paid a visit to (you should eat apples because they’re good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partially true. Around 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 yummy and sweet as they are now. In truth, they were mostly only used for one thing: producing hard cider.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (and not just in the long run, many of these health impacts can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). Conversely, humans generally enjoy feeling intoxicated.
This is not a new thing. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing issues are being exacerbated by drinking alcohol.
In other words, it isn’t just the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the cocktails.
Drinking triggers tinnitus
The majority of hearing specialists will tell you that drinking alcohol can trigger tinnitus. That’s not really that hard to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you may have encountered something called “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, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other role does your inner ear take a part in? Obviously, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can produce the spins, it isn’t hard to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that damages 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:
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. So your brain isn’t functioning properly when alcohol is in your system (clearly, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
- Alcohol can reduce flow of blood to your inner ear. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t really enjoy being starved of blood).
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are often temporary
You might begin to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are brought on by alcohol intake) are typically temporary. Your tinnitus will typically 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 if this kind of damage is repeated routinely, it may become irreversible. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Here are some other things that are happening
It’s not only the alcohol, of course. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are normally pretty noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
In other words, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a potent (and risky) mix for your hearing.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not saying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the answer here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the source of the issue. So you could be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the right treatment.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it may be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.