Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around providing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they’re good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partially accurate. At 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 weren’t as delicious and sweet as modern apples. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the main use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Humans have a complicated relationship with alcohol. It’s not good for your health to begin with (you will often notice some of these health symptoms immediately when you feel hungover). But many individuals like to get a buzz.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Humanity has been imbibing since, well, the beginning of recorded history. But it may be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by drinking alcohol.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only danger to the health of your hearing. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically confirm. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. You’ve likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. When you’re dizzy and the room seems like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
The spins will happen because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body in control of balance: your inner ear.
And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Naturally, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it isn’t a surprise that you may have also experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
The word ototoxic may sound scary, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
Here are a few 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 affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning correctly (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
- The stereocilia in your ears can be compromised by alcohol (these fragile hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no repairing them.
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t necessarily long-term
So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are related to alcohol intake) are usually temporary. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And it could become permanent if this type of damage keeps occurring continually. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Here are some other things that are happening
Clearly, it’s more than just the booze. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.
- Noise: Bars are usually pretty noisy. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a bit too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people talking, and loud music. All of that noisiness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is pretty bad for your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can ultimately be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
The point is, there are serious risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the source of the problem. So you may be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake. You should talk to your physician about how you can seek treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
If you’ve detected a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.