Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Do you recollect the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you likely heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around bringing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they’re a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).

Actually, that isn’t the whole truth. At 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 very different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. Making hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.

Yup, every neighborhood 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 (and not only in the long run, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). Nevertheless, humans generally like feeling intoxicated.

This habit goes back into the early mists of time. People have been drinking since, well, the beginning of recorded time. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by alcohol consumption.

Simply put, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, also.

Drinking triggers tinnitus

Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol can trigger tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. If you’ve ever imbibed a bit too much, you may have experienced something known as “the spins”. That’s when you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (particularly when you close your eyes).

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 take a part in? Naturally, your hearing. So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.

Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus

The word ototoxic may sound scary, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging 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.

There are a few ways that this occurs in practice:

  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working efficiently (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are impacted).
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged by alcohol (these fragile hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). These little hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been compromised.
  • The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t really enjoy being deprived of blood).

Drinking-related hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always long-term

You might start to notice some symptoms when you’re out on the town having some drinks with friends.

These symptoms, thankfully, are normally not permanent when caused by alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll 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 return to normal. And it may become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps happening repeatedly. In other words, it’s completely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.

Here are some other things that are happening

It isn’t just the alcohol, however. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little unfriendly to your ears.

  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Even when you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for you. Alcohol abuse can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise: Bars are typically rather noisy. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit too much. There’s much fun and merriment, people yelling, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.

Simply put, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a potent (and hazardous) mix for your ears.

Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?

Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking by yourself is not at all what we’re recommending. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the source of the problem. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake, you could be causing major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. You should talk to your doctor about how you can get treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.

If you’ve detected a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, schedule 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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