Those Late Night Bar Visits Could be Increasing Your Tinnitus

Group of older adults drinking at the bar.

Do you recall the old tale about Johnny Appleseed? When you were younger you most likely heard the tale of how Johnny Appleseed traveled around bringing fresh apples to communities (the moral of the story is that apples are good for you, and you should eat them).

That’s only partly true. At the end of the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman was his real name) did in fact present apples to many parts of the United States. But apples weren’t as yummy and sweet as they are now. Actually, they were mostly only utilized for one thing: making hard cider.

Yup, every neighborhood that Johnny Appleseed paid a visit to received the gift of booze.

Alcohol and humans can have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, it’s bad for your health (you will often note some of these health problems immediately when you feel hungover). But many people enjoy getting buzzed.

This isn’t new. Humanity has been drinking since, well, the dawn of recorded history. But if you’re dealing with hearing problems, including tinnitus, it’s possible that your alcohol use could be creating or exacerbating your symptoms.

Simply put, it’s not only the loud music at the bar that’s bad for your hearing. It’s also the cocktails.

Tinnitus can be caused by alcohol

The fact that alcohol causes tinnitus is something that hearing specialists will generally validate. That’s not really that hard to believe. If you’ve ever partaken of a bit too much, you may have encountered something known as “the spins”. That’s where you get really, really dizzy and the room feels like it’s, well, spinning (especially when you close your eyes).

The spins will manifest 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 good for? Obviously, your hearing. Which means that if you’ve had the spins, it’s not 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 may sound intimidating, but it just indicates something that can be damaging to your hearing. The entire auditory system from your ears to your brain is included in this.

Here are a number of ways this can play out:

  • The blood flow in your ear can also be decreased by alcohol. This in itself can become a source of damage (most parts of your body don’t really like being deprived of blood).
  • The stereocilia in your ears can be compromised by alcohol (these fragile hairs in your ears transmit vibrational information to your brain for further processing). Once those tiny hairs are damaged, there’s no coming back.
  • There are neurotransmitters in your brain that deal with hearing which can be harmed 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 impacted).

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

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

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

Of course, the longer alcohol is in your system, the longer it will take your ears to return to normal. And if this type of damage is repeated routinely, it may become permanent. In other words, it’s definitely possible (if not likely) that you can generate both permanent tinnitus and hearing loss by drinking too much and too often.

Some other things are happening too

Clearly, it’s more than simply the liquor. The bar scene isn’t hospitable for your ears for other reasons as well.

  • 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 little bit much. There’s loud music, loud people, and lots of yelling and mary-making. All of that noisiness can, over time, cause damage to your hearing.
  • Alcohol causes other issues: Even if you put the hearing loss element aside, drinking is rather bad for your health. Alcohol abuse can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And more extreme tinnitus symptoms as well as life threatening health problems could be the result.

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

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. It’s the alcohol, not the social interaction, that’s the root of the issue. So you may be doing considerable harm to your health and hearing if you’re having difficulty moderating your drinking. You should talk to your physician about how you can seek treatment, and start on the road to being healthy again.

For now, if you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve noticed 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.


    Clayton Audiology

    Clayton, NC

    922 NC Hwy 42 WClayton, NC 27520

    Call or Text: 919-525-3048

    Fax: 919-879-8625

    Mon - Thurs, 9am - 4:30pm
    Fri, 9am - 2pm

    Clayton, NC Google Business Profile

    Find out how we can help!

    Call or Text Us