Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around providing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they’re a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).
Actually, that isn’t the entire reality. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact introduce apples to many states across the country around the end of the 19th century. But apples were really different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to was gifted with booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (and not just in the long term, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). But many individuals like to get a buzz.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. 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 your hearing health. It’s also the drinks.
Drinking alcohol causes tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually validate. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you may have encountered something called “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
The spins will occur 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 produce the spins, it isn’t difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy term for something that harms the auditory system. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are tiny hairs that let you sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later translates into sound). These little hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been compromised.
- Alcohol can reduce flow of blood to your inner ear. This in itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially like being starved of blood).
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. So your brain isn’t working properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus isn’t always permanent
You might begin to notice some symptoms when you’re out on the town having a few drinks with friends.
These symptoms, thankfully, are generally not permanent when related to alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will decline.
Naturally, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it may become irreversible if this type of damage keeps occurring continually. In other words, it’s completely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.
Here are a couple of other things that are happening
Clearly, it’s more than simply the booze. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other issues: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
- Noise: Bars are usually pretty noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
In other words, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a powerful (and risky) mix for your ears.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Of course, we’re not implying that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the source of the problem. So you may be doing substantial harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. You should consult your physician about how you can get treatment, and start on the path to being healthy again.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it may be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.