Your Tinnitus Could be Getting Worse Due to Those Late Night Trips to the Bar

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Do you recollect the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you probably heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed journeyed around providing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).

Actually, that isn’t the whole reality. The authentic 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 tasty 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.

Alcohol and humans can have a complex relationship. It isn’t good for your health to start with (and not just in the long run, many of these health effects can be felt immediately when you spend the early morning hours dizzy, throwing up, or passed out). Conversely, humans generally enjoy feeling intoxicated.

This is not a new thing. Since we’ve been recording history, people have been enjoying alcohol. But if you’re dealing with hearing issues, including tinnitus, it’s possible 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 the health of your hearing. It’s the beer, also.

Tinnitus can be triggered by alcohol

The fact that alcohol triggers tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally verify. That isn’t really that difficult to believe. You’ve probably 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 occur because the alcohol is interfering with the part of your body responsible for balance: your inner ear.

And what else is your inner ear used for? Hearing, of course! Which means that if you’ve experienced the spins, it isn’t a surprise 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 substance

Now there’s an intimidating word: ototoxic. But it’s really just a fancy word for something that harms the auditory system. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.

There are several ways that this plays out in practice:

  • The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. This alone can become a source of damage (most regions of your body don’t really like being deprived of blood).
  • Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these delicate hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for additional processing). Once those delicate hairs are damaged, there’s no repairing them.
  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that manage hearing which can be damaged by alcohol. So your brain isn’t functioning properly when alcohol is in your system (both decision making regions, and hearing centers are impacted).

Drinking-associated hearing loss & tinnitus aren’t always permanent

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.

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

But the longer you have alcohol in your system, the longer your symptoms will last. And if this type of damage is repeated regularly, it could become permanent. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can cause both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too frequently.

Here are some other things that are taking place

It isn’t only the alcohol, however. There are a couple of other factors that make the bar scene a little unfriendly to your ears.

  • Noise: Bars are usually rather loud. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. But when you’re 40 or more it can be a little bit much. There’s plenty of laughing, people yelling, and loud music. All of that noisiness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.
  • Alcohol causes other issues: Drinking is also detrimental to other aspects of your health. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure can be the result of alcohol abuse. And all of these issues can inevitably be life threatening, as well as contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms.

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

So should you stop drinking?

Obviously, we’re not implying that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the answer here. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the source of the issue. So you could be doing substantial harm to your health and hearing if you’re having a hard time moderating your drinking. You should speak with your physician 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.