Can alcohol affect your hearing?

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by
06/07/2019
Lets be-gin and discuss the effects alcohol can have on your hearing? 

Not only can excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, but it can also increase the chances of developing hearing loss. To find out more on the effects read on.

The Brain  

Excessive drinking can damage the auditory cortex in the brain, therefore affecting the way your brain processes sound. The auditory nerve transfers the auditory information from the sounds we hear in the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain where they are then translated. Even though the ears may seem to be functioning properly, the brain may be unable to correctly process the sounds.

A study by German researchers at the University of Ulm discovered that heavy drinking over a long period of time will damage the central auditory cortex, increasing the time it takes to process sounds. This means that you could have trouble hearing people who speak quickly or noticing one voice or sound from another in environments where there is a lot of background noise.

The Ear

Excessive drinking can cause a toxic environment in the inner ear. The inner ear contains tiny hair cells that are responsible for transforming the sounds your ears collect into electronic impulses. This is then sent along the auditory nerve to the brain. The toxicity created in the inner ear by excessive alcohol damages and destroys the hair cells, which do not regenerate. The damage is permanent and so too is the resulting hearing loss. 

A study of young adults in London revealed that excessive alcohol use can lead to problems with understanding lower frequency sounds. This condition is also known appropriately as "cocktail deafness". Although hearing has returned to normal among study participants once they stopped drinking, researchers theorize that frequent episodes of alcohol-induced hearing loss may lead to permanent damage.

Feeling Dizzy?

Anyone who has had the experience a night of overindulging in drinking knows firsthand that drinking can create problems with your balance and make you feel dizzy. 
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, the excessive drinking of alcohol can change the volume and composition of the fluid in the inner ear, therefore causing dizziness and imbalance as well as hearing loss.

Alcohol is absorbed into the fluid of the inner ear and stays there, even after it is no longer present in the blood and the brain. As the inner ear monitors balance, this can cause vertigo along with spatial disorientation. This is often the reason why people experience "the spins" after a night of heavy drinking. It can sometimes be enough for any drinker to swear off alcohol forever. 

To add, the dizziness you experience when you've had one too many can come with tinnitus or ringing in the ears. The tinnitus happens when alcohol causes blood vessels to swell, resulting in greater blood flow within the inner ear. This condition may not be life-threatening but it can often dissipate in a few hours. Although it can be extremely annoying.

Are you ready to quite yet?

How much alcohol is too much? Excessive drinking can also affect more than just your health. Experts believe that for every person with a drinking problem, at least four other people are affected. That’s why many treatment programs involve family.  

Even if you don't abuse alcohol, cutting down can improve your health and help preserve the hearing you have will you can. If you already have a hearing loss from any cause, see one of our audiologists at your local branch for a FREE hearing test. 

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