Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

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

That’s only partly accurate. 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 were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or delicious. In truth, they were mainly only utilized for one thing: creating hard cider.

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

Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. It’s not good for your health to start with (and not just 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). On the other hand, humans typically enjoy feeling inebriated.

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

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

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will usually validate. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you may have experienced something called “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 disturbs your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, tinnitus can manifest.

And what else is your inner ear used for? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not surprising 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

The word ototoxic might sound daunting, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, basically everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.

Here are a few ways this can play out:

  • Alcohol can reduce flow of blood to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t working efficiently when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, 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). Once those delicate hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.

Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are usually temporary

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

The good news is that these symptoms (when they are caused by alcohol intake) are typically short-term. Your tinnitus will usually clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.

Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it could become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps occurring continually. In other words, it’s completely 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

It isn’t only the alcohol, however. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons also.

  • Alcohol causes other issues: 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 severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
  • Noise: Bars are typically rather noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. 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 the years, cause damage to your hearing.

In other words, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your ears.

Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?

Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So you may be doing substantial harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your drinking. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the correct 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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