Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most 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).
That’s only partly true. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to many states across the country at about the turn of the 19th century. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It isn’t good for your health to start with (and not only in the long term, many of these health effects can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). But many individuals like to get a buzz.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. 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 risk to your hearing health. It’s also the cocktails.
Drinking alcohol triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically validate. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever imbibed a little too much, you might have experienced 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”.
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it isn’t surprising that you might have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
The word ototoxic might sound scary, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging 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 number of ways this can play out:
- The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. This alone can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t particularly like being starved of blood).
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t working efficiently when alcohol is in your system (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are little hairs that let you sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later translates into sound). These delicate hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been damaged.
Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are usually temporary
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.
These symptoms, fortunately, are usually not lasting when caused by alcohol. 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 kind of damage keeps happening repeatedly. In other words, it’s completely 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
It isn’t just the alcohol, of course. The bar scene is not hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Drinking is also bad for other facets of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more severe tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, loud. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit much. There’s much fun and merriment, people talking, and loud music. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
Simply put, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a potent (and risky) mix for your ears.
Does that mean it’s time to quit 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 root of the problem. So you may be doing considerable damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. You should talk to your doctor 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, make an appointment with us for a consultation.