Most people enjoy alcoholic drinks occasionally or regularly: we celebrate a special occasion with champagne, we may enjoy a glass of wine with a nice dinner out, or have an ounce or two of liquor to help us relax. When it comes to alcohol, however, there is a fine line between the benefits and the dangers that can result.
We have all heard that heavy drinking can be bad for our livers. We also know that a lot of alcohol consumption can affect our brains and impair basic functions like driving and even walking.
Excessive drinking can even lead to diseases like high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease over time. But did you know it can also increase your risk of hearing loss?
What Drinking Does to Our Brains
When we drink too much, the auditory cortex of the brain can be damaged. The auditory cortex is the part of the brain responsible for how we process and understand sound, so when there is damage to this auditory nerve, the translation of sound in our brains may suffer. So even if you can hear the sounds coming into your ears, you may have trouble understanding them.
Over time, this may cause you to have difficulty understanding speech when it is spoken quickly. You may also have trouble filtering out background noises and distinguishing between different voices and sounds.
What Drinking Does to Our Ears
The inner ear contains tiny, delicate hair cells that collect sounds and translate them into electrical pulses that the brain can then interpret into meaning. Alcohol can cause damage to these delicate hair cells, and once they are damaged, they cannot repair or regrow—so the hearing damage is permanent.
A study in the UK found that young adults who drank excessively often suffered from a temporary hearing loss known as “cocktail deafness.” Their hearing usually returned, but repeated bouts of cocktail deafness can cause permanent hearing loss over time.
Dizziness and Alcohol
Have you ever noticed that after a night of heavy drinking you may feel dizzy or unbalanced, even to the point of difficulty with walking?
That’s because excessive alcohol consumption can change the composition and amount of fluid in the inner ear. This fluid is vital to our balance, which is important for almost everything we do.
After drinking alcohol, it is absorbed into inner ear fluid and it remains there even after the alcohol has left the bloodstream. Over time this can cause balance issues such as episodes of dizziness and vertigo. It can make you feel as if the room is spinning and you may have trouble with disorientation and normal spatial function.
Heavy drinking can also cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This will usually disappear after a few hours, but can be irritating and difficult while it persists.
Hearing Health and Alcohol
Your hearing health is just one more reason to abstain from heavy drinking. If you are looking for help or resources to help you quit drinking, you can find support and encouragement from your doctor, your church or Alcoholics Anonymous. Your family members and friends are likely more than happy to help keep you accountable as well.
The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.
Diablo Hearing Services 2301 Camino Ramon, STE 106 San Ramon (925) 394-4646