Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he paid a visit to (you should eat apples because they are good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only somewhat true. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to many parts of the United States. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. Making hard cider, in fact, was the main use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Humans have a complicated relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (and not just in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). On the other hand, humans generally enjoy feeling inebriated.
This isn’t a new thing. Humanity has been drinking since, well, the dawn of recorded history. But it may be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by alcohol consumption.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only risk to the health of your hearing. It’s also the cocktails.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually verify. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch 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 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 in control of balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other role does your inner ear play a part in? Naturally, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can trigger the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also generate ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that impairs the auditory system. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, basically 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 are fragile hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). Once those delicate hairs are compromised, there’s no coming back.
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning correctly (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are impacted).
Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are usually temporary
You might start to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are brought on by alcohol intake) are normally short-term. Your tinnitus will usually clear up 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 persist. And it may become permanent if this type of damage keeps happening continually. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Here are a couple of other things that are taking place
Clearly, it’s more than simply the booze. 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. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people talking, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol causes other issues: Even if you put the hearing loss factor aside, drinking is pretty bad for you. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
The point is, there are significant hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. The root issue is the alcohol itself. So you could be doing considerable harm to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake. You should consult your doctor about how you can seek treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it might be time to make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.