Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled across the US, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he visited (you should eat apples because they’re good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
Actually, that isn’t the entire reality. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to lots of states across the country at about the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as modern apples. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was bringing booze to every community he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It’s not good for your health to begin with (you will often experience some of these health issues right away when you feel hungover). But many people like to get a buzz.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it may be possible that your hearing issues are being worsened by drinking alcohol.
In other words, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the cocktails.
Drinking alcohol triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually validate. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. If you’ve ever imbibed a little too much, you might have encountered something called “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room seems like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
The spins will manifest 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 take a part in? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can trigger the spins, it isn’t difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
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 harms the auditory system. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
- Alcohol can decrease flow of blood to your inner ear. This alone can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t especially enjoy being deprived of blood).
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be damaged by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working correctly (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus isn’t always permanent
You might start to notice some symptoms when you’re out on the town having a few drinks with friends.
These symptoms, thankfully, are usually not lasting when caused by alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll most likely start to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And if this kind of damage is repeated regularly, it could become irreversible. 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
It isn’t just the alcohol, however. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? But when you’re 40 or older it can be a little bit too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of laughing. All of that loudness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of 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 worsen more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
So should you quit drinking?
Of course, we’re not saying 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 harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. You should speak with your physician about how you can seek treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it may be time to make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.