Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you 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’s not the whole reality. 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 weren’t as delicious and sweet as they are now. Actually, they were mainly only utilized for one thing: making hard cider.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every community he visited.
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 symptoms immediately when you feel hungover). On the other hand, humans typically enjoy feeling inebriated.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing issues are being worsened by drinking alcohol.
In other words, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, too.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The majority of hearing specialists will tell you that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That’s not really that hard to believe. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially when you close your eyes).
When alcohol disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body in control of balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other function does your inner ear play a part in? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can trigger the spins, it isn’t difficult to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that impairs the auditory system. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
There are a few ways that this plays out in practice:
- There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (clearly, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain responsible for hearing).
- 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 converts into sound). Once those delicate hairs are damaged, there’s no repairing them.
- Alcohol can decrease blood flow to your inner ear. This in itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t particularly like being starved of blood).
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t necessarily permanent
You might begin to notice 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 usually short-term. Your tinnitus will typically clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And if this type of damage is repeated routinely, it may become irreversible. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly take place.
A couple of other things are occurring too
It’s not only the alcohol, however. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other issues: Even if 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 issues could be the result.
- Noise: Bars are usually rather noisy. That’s part of their… uh… charm? But when you’re 40 or more it can be a bit much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of laughing. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
The point is, there are significant hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
So should you stop drinking?
Of course, we’re not implying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be creating significant problems for yourself, and for your hearing. You should consult your physician about how you can get treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, make an appointment with us for a consultation.