Those Late Night Bar Trips Could be Increasing Your Tinnitus

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Remember the old story of Johnny Appleseed? In elementary school, you might have been taught that he traveled across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he visited (you should eat apples because they are good for you 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 in fact bring apples to many states across the country around the end of the 19th century. But apples weren’t as delicious and sweet as they are now. Making 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 tricky relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s horrible for your health (you will often notice some of these health symptoms immediately when you feel hungover). But many individuals like to get a buzz.

This habit goes back into the early mists of time. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been indulging in alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s likely that your alcohol use could be generating or exacerbating your symptoms.

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

Drinking causes tinnitus

The majority of hearing specialists will tell you that drinking causes tinnitus. That’s not really that difficult to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you might have encountered something called “the spins”. 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 responsible for balance, tinnitus can manifest.

And what else is your inner ear used for? Obviously, your hearing. So if alcohol can trigger the spins, it isn’t difficult to believe that it can also create ringing or buzzing in your ears.

Ototoxic substances, including alcohol, will cause tinnitus

The word ototoxic may 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.

Here are a few ways this can play out:

  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that handle hearing which can be damaged by alcohol. This means that, while the alcohol is in your system, your brain isn’t functioning effectively (both decision making centers, and hearing centers are affected).
  • Alcohol can reduce flow of blood to your inner ear. This alone can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t particularly like being starved of blood).
  • Alcohol can damage the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.

Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are often temporary

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

The good news is that these symptoms (when they are brought on by alcohol intake) are usually short-term. 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 could become permanent if this kind of damage keeps occurring continually. 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.

A couple of other things are happening too

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

  • Noise: The first is that bars tend to be, well, loud. That’s part of their… uh… appeal? But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit much. There’s noisy music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that loudness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
  • Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also bad for other aspects of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And all of these problems can inevitably be life threatening, as well as contribute to more significant tinnitus symptoms.

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

So should you quit drinking?

Naturally, sitting in a quiet room and drinking alone is not at all what we’re advocating. The root problem is the alcohol itself. So you could be doing substantial harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your alcohol intake. You should consult your doctor 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 may 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.