Do you recollect the old tale about 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).
That’s only partially accurate. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact present apples to many parts of the United States. But apples were very different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to was gifted with booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It’s not good for your health to start with (and not just in the long term, many of these health impacts can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This is not a new thing. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by alcohol consumption.
In other words, it’s not just the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, too.
Drinking triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally verify. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. You’ve probably experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever drank too much. 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 else is your inner ear used for? Naturally, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can cause the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
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 harms the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- 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 (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain in charge of hearing).
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these are fragile hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later translates into sound). These delicate hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been compromised.
- The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t necessarily permanent
So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
These symptoms, thankfully, are generally not permanent when related to alcohol. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll most likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will decline.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And if this type of damage is repeated consistently, it could become permanent. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Here are a couple of other things that are taking place
It isn’t only the booze, however. The bar scene is not hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: 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 outcome of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can ultimately be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: Bars are typically rather noisy. 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 noisy music, loud people, and lots of laughing. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
Simply put, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your hearing.
Does that mean it’s time to 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 socializing, that’s the root of the issue. So you could be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the correct treatment.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it might be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.