Those Late Night Bar Visits Could be Increasing Your Tinnitus

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 traveled around providing 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 true. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact bring apples to many parts of the United States. But apples were very different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or tasty. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.

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 term, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.

This is not new. Since humans have been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being increased by drinking alcohol.

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

Drinking alcohol causes tinnitus

Most hearing specialists will tell you that drinking causes tinnitus. That shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to accept. You’ve likely 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”.

The spins will manifest because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body in control of balance: your inner ear.

And what other role does your inner ear take a part in? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it isn’t surprising that you may have also experienced a buzzing or ringing in your ears that are characteristic of tinnitus.

Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus

Now there’s a scary word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy word for something that impairs the auditory system. This involves both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, essentially everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.

There are a few ways that this plays out in practice:

  • The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. The lack of blood flow can itself be an origin of damage.
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be harmed by alcohol (these delicate hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be damaged by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning efficiently (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are impacted).

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

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, thankfully, are usually not lasting when caused by alcohol. Your tinnitus will typically clear up along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.

But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And it could become permanent if this kind of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. In other words, it’s completely 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 occurring too

Clearly, it’s more than simply the booze. The bar scene is not favorable for your ears for other reasons as well.

  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health concerns could be the outcome.
  • Noise: Bars are normally rather loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a little too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. All of that noisiness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.

In other words, the combination of the environment and the alcohol make those late night bar visits a powerful (and hazardous) mix for your hearing.

Does that mean it’s time to 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 could be doing considerable damage to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. Your doctor can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.

If you’ve noticed 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.