Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled across the US, bringing the gift of healthy apples to every community he visited (you should eat apples because they’re a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).
Actually, that’s not the entire reality. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples were very different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. Making hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Humans have a complicated relationship with alcohol. It’s not good for your health to begin with (and not just in the long term, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). Nevertheless, humans typically enjoy feeling inebriated.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol intake could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
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 caused by alcohol
Most hearing specialists will tell you that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever imbibed a bit too much, you may have experienced something called “the spins”. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially when you close your eyes).
When alcohol interferes with 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 produce the spins, it isn’t hard to believe that it can also generate ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
The word ototoxic may sound scary, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved 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.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be damaged by alcohol. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (clearly, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the parts of your brain in charge of 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 converts into sound). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are often temporary
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 permanent when related to alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll most 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 may become permanent if this kind of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Here are a couple of other things that are happening
It’s not just the alcohol, however. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can ultimately be life threatening, as well as worsen more severe tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: Bars are typically rather loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit too much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of laughing. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not implying that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. The root problem is the alcohol itself. 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 get treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it might be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.