Do you recall the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he migrated across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he visited (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
That’s only somewhat true. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed introduce apples to many states across the country around the turn of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as yummy and sweet as modern apples. Making hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.
Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. It’s not good for your health to start with (and not only in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). On the other hand, humans typically enjoy feeling intoxicated.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. People have been drinking since, well, the dawn of recorded history. But it could be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by alcohol consumption.
In other words, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the cocktails.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
Most hearing specialists will tell you that drinking causes tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch 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 interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body in control of balance, tinnitus can manifest.
And what else is your inner ear used for? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that impairs the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
Here are a few ways this can play out:
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be damaged by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working correctly (clearly, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the parts of your brain in charge of hearing).
- The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. This in itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially like being starved of blood).
- Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these fragile hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no coming back.
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are usually temporary
So if you’re out for a night on the town or getting some drinks with some friends, you might notice yourself developing some symptoms.
These symptoms, thankfully, are usually not permanent when caused by alcohol. Your tinnitus will usually clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
Naturally, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And it could become permanent if this kind of damage keeps occurring continually. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Here are a couple of other things that are taking place
Clearly, it’s more than just the booze. The bar scene is not hospitable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, loud. That’s part of their… uh… charm? Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also bad for other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as contribute to more significant tinnitus symptoms.
In other words, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your ears.
So should you quit drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be creating major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. You should speak with your doctor about how you can get treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
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.