Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed 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’s not the entire truth. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed bring apples to many states across the country at about the turn of the 19th century. But apples were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. In truth, they were generally only used for one thing: creating hard cider.
Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.
Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It’s not good for your health to start with (and not only in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). But many people like to get a buzz.
This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Humanity has been imbibing since, well, the beginning of recorded time. But it may be possible that your hearing problems are being exacerbated by alcohol consumption.
Simply put, it’s not just the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the cocktails.
Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol
The majority of hearing specialists will tell you that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That’s not really that difficult to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you might have experienced something known as “the spins”. When you’re dizzy and the room feels 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 responsible for balance, you may experience the”spins”.
And what other function does your inner ear play a part in? Naturally, your ability to hear. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not a surprise that you might have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.
Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus
The word ototoxic may sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be harmful to your hearing. This includes both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.
Here are a few ways this can play out:
- Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. The deficiency of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
- 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). These delicate hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been damaged.
- Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. So your brain isn’t working efficiently when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are impacted).
Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are often temporary
You might start to notice some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.
These symptoms, luckily, are generally not permanent when caused by alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll most likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will decline.
But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And if this kind of damage is repeated routinely, it may become permanent. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly happen.
Here are some other things that are happening
It’s not only the alcohol, however. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.
- Noise: Bars are typically pretty loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. Your hearing can be compromised over time by this.
- Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
The point is, there are serious hazards to your health and your hearing in these late night bar trips.
Does that mean it’s time to quit drinking?
Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. The underlying issue is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having trouble moderating your drinking, you could be causing significant problems for yourself, and for your hearing. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.
In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it might be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.