Do you recall the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around providing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they are good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
Actually, that isn’t the entire truth. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact present apples to many parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as modern apples. In fact, they were mostly only used for one thing: producing hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every community he visited.
Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (and not only in the long term, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). Conversely, humans generally like feeling intoxicated.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. People have been imbibing since, well, the dawn of recorded time. But it may be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by drinking alcohol.
In other words, it isn’t just 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 causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally verify. That isn’t 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 known as “the spins”.
The spins will happen because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body responsible for balance: your inner ear.
And what other role does your inner ear play a part in? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not surprising that you might have also experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy term for something that harms the auditory system. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). These little hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been damaged.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t functioning properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus isn’t always long-term
So if you’re out for a night on the town or getting some drinks with some friends, you might notice yourself developing some symptoms.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are caused by alcohol intake) are typically short-term. Your tinnitus will usually clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.
Naturally, 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 occurring continually. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.
Here are a couple of other things that are happening
It isn’t just the booze, of course. The bar scene is not favorable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that noisiness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health problems could be the result.
In other words, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a potent (and hazardous) mix for your ears.
So should you stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake, you could be creating major issues for yourself, and for your hearing. You should speak with your doctor 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.