Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he migrated across the United States, bringing the gift of healthy apples to every community he visited (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
Actually, that’s not the whole reality. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to many states across the country around the turn of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as modern apples. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the main use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complex relationship. It isn’t good for your health to start with (you will frequently note some of these health issues right away when you feel hungover). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. People have been drinking since, well, the dawn of recorded time. But if you have hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol consumption could be producing or exacerbating your symptoms.
Simply put, it isn’t just 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 causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally validate. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. When you’re dizzy and the room seems 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 else is your inner ear good for? Obviously, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not hard to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
The word ototoxic might sound daunting, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. This includes both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are several ways that this plays out in practice:
- Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). These little hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been damaged.
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning effectively (obviously, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the portions of your brain responsible for hearing).
- The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t especially enjoy being deprived of blood).
Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are often temporary
So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you might notice yourself developing some symptoms.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are brought on by alcohol intake) are usually short-term. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll 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 it could become permanent if this type of damage keeps happening continually. In other words, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.
Some other things are occurring too
Of course, it’s more than simply the liquor. The bar scene isn’t favorable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these issues can ultimately be life threatening, as well as worsen more severe tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather noisy. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that loudness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
So should you quit drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the answer here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So you could be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your drinking. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the right treatment.
For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it may be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.