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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 (you should eat apples because they’re good for you and that’s the moral of the story).

That’s only partly true. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact introduce apples to many states across the country around the turn of the 19th century. But apples were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.

Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited received the gift of booze.

Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (you will frequently notice some of these health problems right away when you feel hungover). But many individuals like to get a buzz.

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

In other words, it isn’t just the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s the beer, too.

Drinking causes tinnitus

Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol can trigger tinnitus. That’s not really that hard to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you might 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 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 play a part in? Obviously, your ability to hear. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it isn’t surprising that you might have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.

Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus

Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy word for something that damages the auditory system. The whole auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.

Here are a number of ways this can play out:

  • Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these fragile hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those delicate hairs are damaged, there’s no repairing them.
  • Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning efficiently (both decision making centers, 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 parts of your body don’t really enjoy being deprived of blood).

Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are usually temporary

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 typically go away 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 last. And it may become permanent if this type of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. 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 frequently.

Here are a couple of other things that are taking place

Clearly, it’s more than just the liquor. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.

  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Even when you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is pretty bad for your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the outcome of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more significant tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, loud. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a little bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.

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

Does that mean it’s time to quit drinking?

Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking by yourself is not at all what we’re recommending. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having trouble moderating your drinking, you could be causing significant issues for yourself, and for your hearing. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the right treatment.

For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve detected a ringing in your ears, it might be time to make an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.

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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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