Your Tinnitus May be Getting Worse Due to Those Late Night Trips to the Bar

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 tale of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they are a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).

That’s only somewhat true. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed bring apples to lots of states across the country at about the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as modern apples. Actually, they were generally only utilized for one thing: making hard cider.

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

Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will frequently experience some of these health problems immediately when you feel hungover). On the other hand, humans typically like feeling intoxicated.

This isn’t new. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But if you have hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol consumption could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.

So when you’re at the bar, loud music isn’t the only risk to your hearing health. It’s also the cocktails.

Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol

The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically verify. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to believe. You’ve most likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever drank too much. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially when you close your eyes).

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

And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it isn’t 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 intimidating, 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:

  • The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these are fragile hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later translates into sound). These delicate hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been damaged.
  • Alcohol can reduce blood flow to your inner ear. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t particularly like being starved of blood).
  • Alcohol can affect 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 correctly (clearly, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).

Tinnitus and hearing loss due to drinking are usually temporary

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

These symptoms, fortunately, are generally not permanent when related to alcohol. Your tinnitus will typically clear up 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 if this kind of damage is repeated regularly, it may become permanent. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.

A couple of other things are occurring too

It’s not just the alcohol, of course. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene a little unfriendly to your ears.

  • Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, loud. That’s part of their… uh… charm? Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that loudness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
  • Alcohol causes other issues: Even when you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health problems could be the outcome.

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 quit drinking?

Obviously, we’re not implying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the source of the issue. So if you’re having trouble moderating your alcohol intake, you could be causing major problems for yourself, and for your hearing. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.

If you’ve detected a loud ringing in your ears after heavy drinking, make an appointment with us for a consultation.

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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