Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Do you recall the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he migrated across the United States, bringing the gift of healthy apples to every community he paid a visit to (you should eat apples because they’re a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).

That’s only partially true. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact bring apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as yummy and sweet as they are now. Actually, they were mainly only utilized for one thing: producing hard cider.

That’s right. Johnny Appleseed was providing booze to every neighborhood he visited.

Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (and not just in the long run, many of these health impacts can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). But many people like to get a buzz.

This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it may be possible that your hearing problems are being increased by alcohol consumption.

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

Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol

The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically confirm. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to accept. You’ve 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 else is your inner ear used for? Naturally, your ability to hear. So if alcohol can cause the spins, it’s not hard to believe that it can also produce ringing or buzzing in your ears.

Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus

The word ototoxic might sound daunting, but it simply indicates something that can be harmful to your hearing. The entire 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 are little hairs that let you sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
  • Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. So your brain isn’t working properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are impacted).
  • The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.

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

So if you’re out for a night on the town or having some drinks with some friends, you might notice yourself developing some symptoms.

These symptoms, fortunately, are normally not permanent when related to alcohol. Your tinnitus will typically go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.

Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And it could become permanent if this kind of damage keeps happening continually. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly occur.

Here are some other things that are happening

It’s not only the alcohol, however. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.

  • Noise: Bars are usually pretty loud. That’s part of their… uh… charm? But when you’re 40 or more it can be a bit too much. There’s much fun and merriment, people talking, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can ultimately be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.

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

Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?

Obviously, we’re not saying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having trouble moderating your drinking, you could be creating major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. You should talk to your doctor about how you can seek treatment, and start on the path to being healthy again.

For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed 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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