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 story of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (you should eat apples because they are a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).

Actually, that isn’t the entire reality. The real Johnny Appleseed (whose real name was John Chapman) did indeed introduce apples to lots of states across the country around the turn of the 19th century. But apples were really different way back then. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. In fact, they were mostly only used for one thing: making hard cider.

Yup, every community that Johnny Appleseed visited 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 effects can be felt right away when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, nauseous, or passed out). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.

This is not new. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But it could be possible that your hearing problems are being exacerbated by alcohol consumption.

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

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

The majority of hearing specialists will agree that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. If you’ve ever imbibed a little too much, you may have experienced something known as “the spins”. 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 used for? Hearing, of course! So if alcohol can bring about the spins, it’s not difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.

That’s because alcohol is an ototoxic substance

Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s actually just a fancy term for something that damages the auditory system. 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 degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for further processing). These little hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been compromised.
  • 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 working correctly (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the portions of your brain in charge of hearing).
  • The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This by itself can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t especially like being deprived of blood).

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

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

Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And it may become permanent if this kind of damage keeps occurring continually. So if you drink too much too often, permanent damage could possibly occur.

Some other things are happening too

It’s not only the booze, however. The bar scene is not favorable for your ears for other reasons also.

  • Alcohol causes other problems: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can inevitably be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, loud. That’s part of their… uh… charm? Look, if you’re 20 it’s great; if you’re 40 it’s a little too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. Your hearing can be damaged over time by this.

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

So should you stop drinking?

Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re recommending. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the source of the problem. So you may be doing substantial damage to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake. You should consult your physician about how you can get treatment, and start on the path to being healthy again.

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.