Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around providing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).
That’s only partially true. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact present apples to many parts of the United States. But apples were really different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. Actually, they were generally only used for one thing: creating hard cider.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited was gifted with booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complex relationship. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (you will frequently notice some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Since humans have been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol intake could be producing or exacerbating your symptoms.
Simply put, it’s not just the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the drinks.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically verify. That’s not really that hard to believe. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. That’s when you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially with your eyes closed).
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, tinnitus can manifest.
And what else is your inner ear good for? Obviously, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it isn’t 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 substance
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that harms the auditory system. This includes both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, basically everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working correctly (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
- Alcohol can decrease flow of blood to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
- The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). These little hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been compromised.
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.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are related to alcohol intake) are typically temporary. Your tinnitus will usually clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it may become permanent if this type of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Here are a couple of other things that are taking place
Of course, it’s more than simply the liquor. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also bad for other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health problems could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather loud. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
Simply put, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your ears.
So should you stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not implying that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So you may be doing substantial harm 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.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.