Do you recall the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around providing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they are a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partially true. 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 really different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. In truth, they were mainly only used for one thing: creating hard cider.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It’s not good for your health to start with (you will often notice some of these health issues right away when you feel hungover). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. People have been imbibing since, well, the beginning of recorded history. But if you’re dealing with hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol use could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only danger to your hearing health. It’s the beer, also.
Drinking triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually verify. That’s not really that difficult to believe. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever drank too much. That’s when you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (particularly with your eyes closed).
When alcohol interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body in control of balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what else is your inner ear used for? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not hard to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
The word ototoxic may sound intimidating, but it simply indicates something that can be harmful to your hearing. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
There are several ways that this occurs in practice:
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. So your brain isn’t functioning properly when alcohol is in your system (obviously, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
- Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these fragile hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those delicate hairs are compromised, there’s no coming back.
- The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially enjoy being deprived of blood).
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are usually temporary
You may start to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having a few drinks with friends.
These symptoms, fortunately, are generally not lasting 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 it could become irreversible if this type of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.
Here are a couple of other things that are taking place
Of course, it’s more than just the booze. The bar scene isn’t favorable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, noisy. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit too much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of laughing. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the result.
The point is, there are significant risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
Does that mean it’s time to quit drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking by yourself is not at all what we’re advocating. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the root of the issue. So if you’re having trouble moderating your alcohol intake, you could be creating major issues for yourself, and for your hearing. 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.