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 (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).
Actually, that isn’t the entire truth. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to many states across the country around the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as modern apples. Actually, they were mostly only utilized for one thing: creating hard cider.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Humans have a complex relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to start with (and not only in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, throwing up, or passed out). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you have hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol consumption could be creating or exacerbating your symptoms.
Put simply, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s also the drinks.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually verify. That isn’t really that hard to believe. If you’ve ever imbibed a little too much, you may have encountered something called “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, tinnitus can manifest.
And what other role does your inner ear play a part in? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it isn’t hard to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
The word ototoxic might sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
There are a few ways that this plays out in practice:
- 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 harmed by alcohol (these are fragile hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). These delicate hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been damaged.
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that handle hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning effectively (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are usually temporary
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, fortunately, are generally not permanent when caused by alcohol. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll likely start to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will decline.
Naturally, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And if this kind of damage is repeated consistently, it could become irreversible. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Some other things are happening too
Clearly, it’s more than simply the liquor. The bar scene is not favorable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit much. There’s much fun and merriment, 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 trips a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your hearing.
So should you stop drinking?
Of course, we’re not saying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the answer here. The root 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 provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the right treatment.
In the meantime, if you drink heavily and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it might be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.