Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around providing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).

Actually, that isn’t the entire reality. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact introduce apples to lots of states across the country around the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as they are now. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.

Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to was gifted with booze.

Alcohol and humans can have a complex relationship. On the one hand, it’s terrible 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, throwing up, or passed out). Conversely, humans typically like feeling inebriated.

This isn’t new. Since humans have been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by drinking alcohol.

So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only danger to your hearing health. It’s the beer, also.

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically validate. That’s not really that hard to accept. If you’ve ever imbibed a little too much, you may have encountered something called “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s called “the spins”.

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 take a part in? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not a surprise 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 may sound intimidating, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.

There are a few ways that this plays out in practice:

  • Alcohol can affect 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 functioning correctly (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are affected).
  • The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This by itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t really like being deprived of blood).
  • Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these are fragile hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). Once those delicate hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.

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.

These symptoms, luckily, are usually not lasting when related to alcohol. 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 persist. And it could become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps occurring continually. In other words, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.

Here are a couple of other things that are happening

Of course, it’s more than just the booze. The bar scene is not favorable for your ears for other reasons also.

  • Noise: Bars are typically pretty loud. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can inevitably be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.

The point is, there are serious risks to your health and your hearing in these late night bar visits.

So should you quit drinking?

Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So you could be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your drinking. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.

If you’ve detected a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, make an appointment with us for a consultation.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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