Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they are good for you and that’s the moral of the story).
That’s only partially true. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact present apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as modern apples. Actually, they were generally only utilized for one thing: producing hard cider.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.
Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will frequently experience some of these health issues immediately when you feel hungover). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.
This is not new. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol use could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.
Put simply, it isn’t just the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, also.
Drinking causes tinnitus
Most hearing specialists will tell you that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you may have encountered something known as “the spins”. 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 interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body in control of balance, tinnitus can manifest.
And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Naturally, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can cause the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy term for something that damages the auditory system. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.
There are several ways that this occurs in practice:
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working effectively (clearly, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain responsible for hearing).
- The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
- Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those delicate hairs are compromised, there’s no coming back.
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are often temporary
So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you may notice yourself developing some symptoms.
The good news is that these symptoms (when they are caused by alcohol intake) are usually temporary. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll most 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 go back to normal. And if this type of damage is repeated regularly, it could become permanent. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly occur.
Here are some other things that are happening
Of course, it’s more than just the booze. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.
- Alcohol leads to other issues: Even when you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is pretty bad for your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
- Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit too much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
Simply put, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a potent (and risky) mix for your ears.
So should you quit drinking?
Of course, we’re not implying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the root of the problem. So you could be doing substantial damage 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 seek treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.
For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it might be time to make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.