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).
Actually, that isn’t the whole truth. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed bring apples to many states across the country at about the turn of the 19th century. But apples were very different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It’s not good for your health to begin with (you will often note some of these health problems immediately when you feel hungover). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.
This is not new. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by alcohol consumption.
In other words, it’s not just the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
The majority of hearing specialists will agree that drinking causes tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch 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 feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
When alcohol interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other role does your inner ear play a part in? Naturally, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can cause the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that harms the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
Here are a few ways this can play out:
- The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged by alcohol (these are little hairs that let you sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). These little hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been compromised.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning efficiently (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are impacted).
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. This by itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially enjoy being starved of blood).
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always long-term
So if you’re out for a night on the town or getting some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
These symptoms, luckily, are generally not permanent when related to alcohol. Your tinnitus will usually go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And if this type of damage is repeated consistently, it could become irreversible. 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 frequently.
A couple of other things are occurring too
Of course, it’s more than just the liquor. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also bad for other facets of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather loud. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a little bit much. There’s plenty of laughing, people talking, and loud music. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
In other words, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a potent (and risky) mix for your hearing.
So should you quit drinking?
Of course, we’re not implying 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 harm to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the correct treatment.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, make an appointment with us for a consultation.