Hearing Health Blog

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).

Actually, that’s not 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 weren’t as tasty and sweet as they are now. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.

That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was bringing booze to every community he visited.

Alcohol and humans can have a complex relationship. It’s not good for your health to begin with (you will frequently experience some of these health issues immediately when you feel hungover). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.

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

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

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol can trigger tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever had too much to drink. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (particularly with your eyes closed).

When alcohol interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, tinnitus can manifest.

And what other role does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! 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.

That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance

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 involved in this.

Here are a few ways this can play out:

  • The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. So your brain isn’t working properly when alcohol is in your system (clearly, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain in charge of hearing).
  • The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.

Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t necessarily permanent

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

These symptoms, luckily, are normally not permanent when related to alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.

Naturally, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And if this type of damage is repeated routinely, it may become irreversible. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly happen.

Some other things are happening too

It’s not just the booze, of course. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.

  • Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as worsen more severe tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of laughing. 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 stop 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 if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking, you could be creating significant issues for yourself, and for your hearing. You should speak with your physician about how you can get treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.

If you’ve noticed 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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