Your Tinnitus Could be Getting Worse As a Result of Those Late Night Trips to the Bar

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 migrated across the United States, bringing the gift of nourishing apples to every community he visited (you should eat apples because they’re a healthy choice and that’s the moral of the story).

That’s only partly accurate. 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 were really different hundreds of years ago. They weren’t as sweet or yummy. Producing hard cider, in fact, was the primary use of apples.

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

Humans have a complicated relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, it’s terrible for your health (you will frequently note some of these health symptoms right away when you feel hungover). On the other hand, humans typically like feeling inebriated.

This habit goes back into the early mists of time. People have been imbibing since, well, the beginning of recorded history. But it may be possible that your hearing issues are being increased by alcohol consumption.

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

Drinking triggers tinnitus

Most hearing specialists will agree that drinking can trigger tinnitus. That isn’t really that difficult to accept. 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”.

When alcohol interferes with your inner ear, which is the part of your body in control of balance, tinnitus can manifest.

And what other function does your inner ear take a part in? Obviously, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve had 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.

Ototoxic compounds, including alcohol, will trigger tinnitus

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

There are several ways that this plays out in practice:

  • Alcohol can impact 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 functioning correctly (obviously, decision-making centers are impacted; but so, too, are the parts of your brain responsible for hearing).
  • Alcohol can degrade the stereocilia in your ears (these fragile hairs in your ears convey vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are compromised, there’s no repairing them.
  • The blood flow in your ear can also be reduced by alcohol. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t particularly like being deprived of blood).

Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by drinking are often temporary

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 brought on by alcohol intake) are normally short-term. Your tinnitus will typically go away along with most of your hearing loss when your body chemistry returns to normal.

Naturally, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to go back to normal. And it may become irreversible if this kind of damage keeps occurring repeatedly. 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 often.

A couple of other things are happening too

It’s not only the alcohol, of course. The bar scene isn’t favorable for your ears for other reasons also.

  • Alcohol leads to other issues: Drinking is also detrimental to other facets of your health. Alcohol abuse can result in health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health concerns could be the outcome.
  • Noise: The first is that bars are typically, well, noisy. Some of their appeal comes from…uh.. just this. Look, if you’re 20 it’s fine; if you’re 40 it’s a bit too much. There’s plenty of laughing, people talking, and loud music. All of that loudness can, over the years, cause damage to your hearing.

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

Does that mean it’s time to stop drinking?

Of course, we’re not suggesting that drinking by yourself in a quiet room is the solution here. The underlying issue is the alcohol itself. So if you’re having trouble moderating your alcohol intake, you could be causing significant issues for yourself, and for your hearing. Your provider can help you move towards living a healthier life with the proper treatment.

For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears, it might be time to make 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.