Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the tale 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’s not the whole reality. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to many parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as they are now. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the main use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was delivering booze to every community he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complex relationship. On the one hand, it’s terrible for your health (you will frequently experience some of these health issues immediately when you feel hungover). But many people like to get a buzz.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since humans have been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But it may be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by alcohol consumption.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only danger to your hearing health. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
The majority of hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol causes tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you might have encountered something known as “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels 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 role does your inner ear take a part in? Obviously, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not a surprise that you may have also experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy word for something that damages the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
There are several ways that this plays out in practice:
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. So your brain isn’t working properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are impacted).
- Alcohol can decrease blood flow to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are fragile hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). These delicate hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been compromised.
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t necessarily long-term
You might begin to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
These symptoms, fortunately, are usually not permanent 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 decline.
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 permanent. 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.
Here are some other things that are happening
Clearly, it’s more than just the liquor. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.
- Alcohol causes other issues: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for you. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health concerns could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are usually pretty noisy. That’s part of their… uh… charm? But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of laughing. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
In other words, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a potent (and risky) mix for your hearing.
So should you stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not implying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the answer here. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the source of the problem. So you may be doing considerable damage 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.
In the meantime, if you drink heavily and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it might be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.