Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).
Actually, that isn’t the entire truth. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact present apples to many parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as yummy and sweet as they are now. In fact, they were mainly only used for one thing: making hard cider.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to was gifted with booze.
Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will often experience some of these health problems immediately when you feel hungover). But many individuals like to get a buzz.
This isn’t a new thing. People have been imbibing since, well, the beginning of recorded time. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being exacerbated by alcohol consumption.
Simply put, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
The majority of hearing specialists will tell you that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. You’ve probably experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. That’s when you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially with your eyes closed).
The spins will happen because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body responsible for balance: your inner ear.
And what else is your inner ear good 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. This involves 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 reduce flow of blood to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are tiny hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later translates into sound). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working efficiently (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain in charge of hearing).
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are often temporary
So if you’re out for a night on the town or getting some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
These symptoms, luckily, are generally not lasting when caused by alcohol. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll most likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And it could become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps happening repeatedly. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly take place.
Here are some other things that are taking place
It’s not only the alcohol, of course. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol causes other problems: Even when you put the hearing loss factor aside, drinking is rather bad for your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health concerns could be the outcome.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather loud. 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 too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
The point is, there are significant hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.
So should you quit drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the source of the issue. So you may be doing considerable damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. You should talk to 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 make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.