Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he migrated across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he paid a visit to (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).
That’s only somewhat true. Around the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to many parts of the United States. But apples were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. Actually, they were mainly only used for one thing: creating hard cider.
Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.
Humans have a complex relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to start with (and not just in the long term, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. People have been imbibing since, well, the beginning of recorded time. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being exacerbated by alcohol consumption.
In other words, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, too.
Drinking causes tinnitus
Most hearing specialists will tell you that drinking causes tinnitus. That’s not really that difficult to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of 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”.
When alcohol interferes with 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 take a part in? Obviously, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not a surprise that you may have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic compound
Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that damages the auditory system. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
There are several ways that this occurs in practice:
- The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for further processing). These delicate hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been compromised.
- Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (obviously, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain in charge of hearing).
- Alcohol can decrease blood flow to your inner ear. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t really like being starved of blood).
Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always permanent
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 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 if this type of damage is repeated routinely, it could become permanent. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.
Some other things are occurring too
It isn’t only the booze, of course. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health concerns could be the outcome.
- Noise: Bars are normally pretty noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a little bit too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people talking, and loud music. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
Simply put, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a potent (and hazardous) mix for your hearing.
Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the solution here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So you may be doing considerable harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. You should consult your doctor 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, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.