Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around providing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
Actually, that’s not the entire truth. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact bring apples to many parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as modern apples. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every neighborhood he visited.
Humans have a complex relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (and not only in the long run, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). Nevertheless, humans generally enjoy feeling inebriated.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol consumption could be creating or exacerbating your symptoms.
So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only risk to the health of your hearing. It’s also the drinks.
Drinking triggers tinnitus
The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually verify. That’s not really that hard to accept. You’ve likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. When you’re dizzy and the room feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.
The spins will happen because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body in control of balance: your inner ear.
And what else is your inner ear good for? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not surprising that you might have also experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
The word ototoxic might sound scary, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.
Here are a number of ways this can play out:
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (obviously, 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 decreased by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source 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 converts into sound). These little hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been damaged.
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are often temporary
You may begin to notice some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
These symptoms, luckily, are usually not permanent when related to alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll likely start to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.
Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it may become permanent if this kind of damage keeps happening repeatedly. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly occur.
Here are a couple of other things that are taking place
It’s not only the booze, however. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, noisy. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
- Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can ultimately be life threatening, as well as worsen more significant tinnitus symptoms.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
So should you stop drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking by yourself is not at all what we’re recommending. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the source of the problem. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be causing significant issues for yourself, and for your hearing. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the correct treatment.
If you’ve noticed a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, make an appointment with us for a consultation.