Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Remember the old tale of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you may have been taught that he traveled 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).

That’s only partially true. Around 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 weren’t as tasty and sweet as they are now. Actually, they were mainly only used for one thing: creating hard cider.

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

Humans have a complex relationship with alcohol. It isn’t good for your health to begin with (and not only in the long run, many of these health impacts can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, vomiting, or passed out). Conversely, humans generally enjoy feeling intoxicated.

This isn’t new. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol intake could be creating or exacerbating your symptoms.

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

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

The majority of hearing specialists will agree that drinking alcohol can trigger tinnitus. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. If you’ve ever partaken of a little too much, you might have encountered something called “the spins”. That’s when you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially when you close your eyes).

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

And what else is your inner ear used for? Obviously, your ability to hear. Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it’s not 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

The word ototoxic might sound intimidating, but it just indicates something that can be harmful 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.

Here are a number of ways this can play out:

  • Alcohol can decrease blood flow to your inner ear. The lack of blood flow can itself be a source of damage.
  • Alcohol can impact the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for hearing. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t working effectively (obviously, decision-making centers are affected; but so, too, are the parts of your brain in charge of hearing).
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be damaged by alcohol (these fragile hairs in your ears conduct vibrational information to your brain for further processing). These little hairs will never heal or grow back once they have been damaged.

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

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

The good news is that these symptoms (when they are caused by alcohol intake) are normally short-term. As your body chemistry goes back to normal, you’ll most likely start to recover some of your hearing and your tinnitus will wane.

But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will persist. And it may become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps happening continually. In other words, it’s completely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.

A couple of other things are happening too

It’s not only the alcohol, of course. There are a couple of other elements that make the bar scene somewhat more inhospitable for your ears.

  • Alcohol causes other issues: 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 more profound tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health issues could be the outcome.
  • Noise: Bars are normally rather noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or older it can be a bit too much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. 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 visits.

Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?

Obviously, we’re not suggesting that drinking alone in a quiet room is the answer here. It’s the alcohol, not the socializing, that’s the root of the problem. So if you’re having difficulty moderating your alcohol intake, you could be creating significant problems for yourself, and for your hearing. You should speak with your physician about how you can get treatment, and start on the road 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 schedule an appointment with us to check for tinnitus.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment

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.
Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call or Text Us