Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around providing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
That’s only partly true. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact present apples to many parts of the United States. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Making hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed visited was gifted with 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 effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, throwing up, or passed out). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.
This is not new. Humanity has been imbibing since, well, the dawn of recorded history. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being increased by alcohol consumption.
Put simply, it’s not just the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, too.
Drinking alcohol causes tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually validate. That’s not really that difficult to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you may have encountered something called “the spins”. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (particularly 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 else is your inner ear good for? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can trigger the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
The word ototoxic may sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be harmful to your hearing. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, basically everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
Here are a few ways this can play out:
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). These little hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been compromised.
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. The deficiency of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working effectively (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are impacted).
Drinking-related 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, fortunately, are normally not permanent when caused by alcohol. Your tinnitus will typically go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
Naturally, 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 regularly, it may become permanent. In other words, it’s definitely 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 simply the booze. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather loud. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a bit much. There’s much fun and merriment, people talking, and loud music. All of that noisiness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is pretty bad for you. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
Simply put, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a powerful (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 solution here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be causing major issues for yourself, and for your hearing. You should talk to 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, make an appointment with us for a consultation.