Do you recall the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
Actually, that isn’t the entire truth. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact introduce apples to lots of states across the country around the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as they are now. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Humans have a complex relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to start with (you will often note some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). Conversely, humans generally like feeling intoxicated.
This isn’t new. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing issues are being worsened by drinking alcohol.
Put simply, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, too.
Drinking alcohol triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically confirm. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever imbibed a bit too much, you might have experienced something known as “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room seems like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s known as “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 used for? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it isn’t surprising that you may have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy word for something that impairs the auditory system. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
Here are a few ways this can play out:
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
- Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these are fragile hairs that let you 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 reduce blood flow to your inner ear. The deficiency of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always permanent
You may start to detect some symptoms when you’re out on the town having a few drinks with friends.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are brought on by alcohol intake) are typically temporary. 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 irreversible if this kind of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly occur.
Here are some other things that are happening
It isn’t just the booze, however. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little unfriendly to your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Even if you put the hearing loss factor aside, drinking is rather bad for you. Alcohol abuse can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more severe tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: Bars are normally pretty noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little too much. There’s much fun and merriment, people talking, and loud music. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
The point is, there are serious risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
Does that mean it’s time to quit drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake, you could be causing major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it may be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.