Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
That’s only partly true. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed introduce apples to lots of states across the country around the end of the 19th century. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. Actually, they were mostly only utilized for one thing: creating hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was delivering booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (and not only in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). On the other hand, humans typically enjoy feeling intoxicated.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. People have been imbibing since, well, the dawn of recorded time. But if you have hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol consumption could be producing or exacerbating your symptoms.
In other words, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, also.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally validate. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you may 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 in control of balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what else is your inner ear used for? Obviously, your ability to hear. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not surprising that you may have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy word for something that impairs the auditory system. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are a few ways that this plays out in practice:
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working correctly (clearly, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the portions of your brain responsible for hearing).
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these are little hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). These delicate hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been compromised.
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. The deficiency of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to 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 normally not lasting when related to alcohol. Your tinnitus will typically go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And it could become permanent if this type of damage keeps occurring continually. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.
Some other things are occurring too
It’s not just the alcohol, however. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of laughing. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
So should you quit drinking?
Of course, we’re not suggesting that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the root of the problem. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake, you could be creating major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. You should talk to your doctor about how you can seek treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
In the meantime, if you drink heavily and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it might be time to make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.