Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you likely heard the story of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around providing 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. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact present apples to numerous parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as tasty and sweet as modern apples. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the chief use of apples.

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

Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (you will often experience some of these health issues immediately when you feel hungover). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.

This habit 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 problems, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol intake could be creating or exacerbating your symptoms.

Simply put, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s the beer, also.

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally verify. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to accept. You’ve probably experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever drank too much. 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 responsible for balance, tinnitus can manifest.

And what else is your inner ear good for? Obviously, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not 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 may sound intimidating, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that connects your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.

Here are a few ways this can play out:

  • The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially enjoy being starved of blood).
  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be harmed by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning efficiently (clearly, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
  • Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these are little hairs that allow you to sense vibrations in the air, vibrations that your brain later converts into sound). These delicate hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been compromised.

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

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

These symptoms, thankfully, are normally not lasting when related to alcohol. Your tinnitus will usually go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry goes back to normal.

Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it could become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps happening repeatedly. 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 often.

Here are some other things that are taking place

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

  • Alcohol leads to other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
  • Noise: The first is that bars are usually, well, loud. Some of their charm comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.

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

So should you quit drinking?

Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking by yourself is not at all what we’re recommending. The underlying issue is the alcohol itself. So you may be doing substantial harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your drinking. You should consult your doctor about how you can get treatment, and start on the path to being healthy again.

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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