Your Tinnitus Might be Getting Worse As a Result of Those Late Night Bar Visits

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he migrated across the US, bringing the gift of healthy apples to every community he paid a visit to (the moral of the story is that apples are healthy, and you should eat them).

Actually, that isn’t the whole reality. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact bring apples to many states across the country at about the end of the 19th century. But apples were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Brewing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.

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

Humans have a complex relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s terrible for your health (and not only in the long term, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, throwing up, or passed out). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.

This isn’t a new thing. Humanity has been imbibing since, well, the dawn of recorded time. But it could be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by drinking alcohol.

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

Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol

The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will typically verify. That’s not really that difficult to believe. You’ve probably 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 when you close your eyes).

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

And what else is your inner ear good for? Naturally, your ability to hear. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it isn’t surprising that you may have also experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.

That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance

The word ototoxic might sound scary, but it simply indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is involved in this.

Here are a few ways this can play out:

  • Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning correctly (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain in charge of hearing).
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). These little hairs will never recover or grow back once they have been damaged.
  • Alcohol can reduce flow of blood to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.

Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are usually temporary

You might start to notice 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. Your tinnitus will usually go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.

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 could become irreversible. So if you drink too much too frequently, permanent damage could possibly happen.

Some other things are occurring too

Of course, it’s more than just the booze. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene somewhat more unfriendly to your ears.

  • Noise: Bars are normally pretty loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.
  • Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also bad for other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these issues can ultimately be life threatening, as well as worsen more significant tinnitus symptoms.

Simply put, the mix of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar trips a powerful (and risky) mix for your ears.

Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?

Of course, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone 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 causing significant problems for yourself, and for your hearing. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.

In the meantime, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it might be time to schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.

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.