Do you recall the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the story 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 reality. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as they are now. Making hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed visited was gifted with booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. 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 right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). Conversely, humans generally enjoy feeling intoxicated.
This habit goes back into the early mists of time. People have been imbibing since, well, the dawn of recorded history. But if you have hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol intake could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
Simply put, it isn’t just the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the drinks.
Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol
Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol causes tinnitus. That isn’t really that hard to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you may have experienced something called “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels 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 in control of balance: your inner ear.
And what other role does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not hard to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy word for something that harms the auditory system. 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 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 functioning correctly (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are impacted).
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t particularly enjoy being deprived of blood).
- The stereocilia in your ears can be compromised by alcohol (these are fragile hairs that let you 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 compromised.
Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus isn’t always permanent
You may 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 usually clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And it could become permanent if this type of damage keeps happening continually. In other words, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.
A couple of other things are occurring too
It’s not only the booze, however. The bar scene isn’t favorable for your ears for other reasons also.
- Noise: Bars are normally pretty loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a bit much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of laughing. All of that loudness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
- Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And all of these problems can ultimately be life threatening, as well as worsen more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
The point is, there are significant risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re recommending. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So you may be doing considerable harm to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the right treatment.
In the meantime, if you drink heavily and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it might be time to make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.