Those Late Night Bar Trips Could be Increasing Your Tinnitus

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the story 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 partly accurate. The authentic Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did in fact introduce apples to lots of states across the country at about the turn of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as modern apples. In truth, they were mainly only utilized for one thing: creating hard cider.

Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed visited was gifted with booze.

Humans have a tricky relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (and not only in the long term, many of these health effects can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, throwing up, or passed out). But many individuals enjoy getting buzzed.

This habit goes back into the early mists of time. People have been drinking since, well, the beginning of recorded time. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being worsened by drinking alcohol.

Put simply, it isn’t only the loud music at the bar that can cause hearing troubles. It’s also the cocktails.

Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol

The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally confirm. That’s not really that hard to believe. You’ve likely experienced “the spins” if you’ve ever drank too much. When you’re dizzy and the room seems like it’s spinning after drinking this is what’s known as “the spins”.

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 hearing. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not 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 compound

The word ototoxic might sound daunting, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. This includes both the auditory nerves and the inner ear, basically everything that links your whole auditory system, from your ears to your brain.

There are several ways that this occurs in practice:

  • Alcohol can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain that are in control of hearing. So your brain isn’t functioning efficiently when alcohol is in your system (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are impacted).
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be compromised by alcohol (these are little hairs that let you 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.
  • 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 enjoy being starved of blood).

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 a few drinks with friends.

These symptoms, thankfully, are generally not permanent 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 if this type of damage is repeated regularly, it could become irreversible. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.

Some other things are happening too

It’s not just the alcohol, of course. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little inhospitable for your ears.

  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more severe tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health problems could be the outcome.
  • Noise: The first is that bars are typically, 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 little too much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of laughing. All of that noisiness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.

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

So should you quit drinking?

Of course, we’re not saying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the root of the issue. So you may be doing considerable damage to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake. You should consult your doctor about how you can get treatment, and start on the path to being healthy again.

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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