Not only can heavy drinking lead to problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, but alcohol can even affect your hearing. It’s no surprise that there’s a connection between vertigo and alcohol use and considering the millions of people with alcohol use disorders in the United States, more awareness should be brought to this relation. Today, we’re doing just that. Keep reading to learn what vertigo is and whether alcohol can bring on vertigo.
What Is Vertigo?
Vertigo refers to a sudden sensation of internal or external spinning that’s often triggered by moving your head too quickly. Vertigo feels as if the room is spinning, or someone is spinning you on a chair.
Several things can cause vertigo, such as:
- BPPV: Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) occurs when tiny calcium particles called canaliths dislodge from their normal location and collect in the inner ear. The inner ear then sends signals to the brain about head and body movements concerning gravity to help you keep your balance.
- Meniere’s disease: This is an inner ear disorder that’s believed to be caused by a buildup of fluids and changes in pressure in the ear. This can lead to vertigo along with ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss.
- Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis: This is an inner ear issue that’s usually caused by a virus. The infection causes inflammation in the inner ear around the nerves that help maintain the body’s sense of balance.
Vertigo is often usually triggered by a change in the position of your head. People with vertigo describe feeling as if they’re spinning, tilting, swaying, or being pulled in one direction. Other symptoms of vertigo may include:
- Abnormal or jerking eye movements (nystagmus)
- Ringing in the ears or temporary hearing loss
Vertigo symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours or longer. Other things can aggravate vertigo, as well, so if you have any of the conditions listed above or experience vertigo frequently, ask your doctor about things to avoid preventing episodes from occurring.
Can Alcohol Cause Vertigo?
Due to alcohol’s effects on the brain and hearing, alcohol can cause vertigo. The link between vertigo and alcohol consumption lies in drinking’s ability to impair one’s auditory cortex, hearing, and balance.
Alcohol and Hearing Loss
For one, excessive drinking damages the auditory cortex in the brain, which is the region of the brain responsible for processing auditory information, which allows us to hear sounds and learn languages. The auditory nerve transfers the sound we hear in the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain, where it’s translated and understood.
This means that while the ears can absorb sound, the brain may not always be able to understand it. Long-term alcohol use can damage the central auditory cortex, increasing the time it takes for the brain to process sound. This can make it difficult to understand people who speak quickly or distinguish voices or sounds from background noise.
Alcohol and Inner Ear Problems
Another reason you can get vertigo from drinking is because of alcohol’s impact on the fluid in the ears. Alcohol affects the part of your ears that sense angular and linear motion.
There are three semicircular canals and otolith organs in each ear that are filled with fluid. Within this fluid are little hairs that are attached to nerve cells that translate sound into electrical impulses that the inner ear sends to the auditory nerve in the brain.
When you move your head, the fluid moves in opposite directions for a brief movement, bending the hairs to create electrical signals that are sent to the brain to maintain balance. The three semicircular canals are bent at different angles, allowing your brain to be under the location of your head in space and produce the feeling of movement.
Not only can alcohol produce dehydration – which reduces the amount of fluid in one ear – but toxicity caused by alcohol can damage and destroy these tiny hair cells and inhibit them from regenerating.
This may result in permanent damage and loss of hearing. Alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of preexisting hearing-related problems like Meniere’s disease and BPPV, as well.
Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Vertigo?
Due to the high risk of developing vertigo after drinking, you should not drink alcohol if you have vertigo or a history of vertigo. Additionally, if you have other conditions associated with vertigo, like Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, or BPPV, alcohol consumption is not advised.
Vertigo and alcohol withdrawal also commonly co-occur as your body works to correct the changes in fluid levels caused by long-term alcohol abuse. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to functioning with less inner ear fluid, and neurons learn to compensate for the altered signals in your ears. As a result, when alcohol is removed during the detox process, vertigo may occur.
For this reason, among others, our Massachusetts treatment center suggested undergoing medically monitored detox for alcohol to receive 24-hour care and treatment for vertigo and other withdrawal symptoms.
Do You Have a Drinking Problem?
Vertigo isn’t the only problem that can result from excessive drinking. Long-term, heavy alcohol use can lead to alcoholism, a chronic disease that normally requires in-depth care from an addiction treatment center to recover from. If you find yourself unable to quit drinking despite the problems it’s causing for your health and life, then you probably need help.
Fortunately, our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab offers residential care for people with substance use disorders that separates them from distractions and helps them focus on their recovery. With the use of evidence-based therapy programs and treatment modalities, our addiction specialists can help you or a loved one overcome addiction and live a happy and sober life.