Hearing Services of Nashville

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around bringing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they are good for you and that’s the moral of the story).

That’s only somewhat accurate. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his birth name) did in fact bring apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as yummy and sweet as modern apples. Actually, they were mostly only used for one thing: producing hard cider.

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

Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. It’s not good for your health to begin with (and not just in the long term, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). But many people like to get a buzz.

This behavior goes back into the early mists of time. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you have hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol consumption could be producing or exacerbating your symptoms.

In other words, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s also the drinks.

Drinking alcohol causes tinnitus

Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking causes tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to accept. 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 (especially when you close your eyes).

When alcohol interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body responsible for balance, you may experience the”spins”.

And what else is your inner ear good for? Obviously, your hearing. 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.

That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance

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

There are a few ways that this occurs in practice:

  • The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t really like being deprived of blood).
  • Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in charge of hearing. So your brain isn’t working properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged 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 heal or grow back once they have been damaged.

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 might notice yourself developing some symptoms.

These symptoms, fortunately, are generally not lasting when caused by alcohol. As your body chemistry returns to normal, you’ll likely begin to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.

But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And if this type of damage is repeated regularly, it may become irreversible. In other words, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.

Some other things are happening too

Of course, it’s more than just the liquor. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.

  • Alcohol causes other problems: Even when you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
  • Noise: Bars are normally pretty loud. That’s part of their… uh… charm? Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little bit 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.

The point is, there are significant hazards 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 by yourself is not at all what we’re advocating. The underlying problem is the alcohol itself. So you may be doing considerable damage to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking. 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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