How Drinking Affects Hearing
There’s nothing quite like celebrating a special occasion with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, but if you drink too much alcohol, it’s not just your liver at risk but hearing as well. According to hearing healthcare professionals, too much drinking can damage the auditory cortex in the brain and shrink it.
Drinking and the Brain
The auditory nerve is responsible for transmitting auditory data to your brain from the cochlea. What this means is there’s the possibility that your brain won’t be able to process the information even though your ears are healthy. In addition, there’s evidence which shows that drinking too much alcohol produces an unhealthy environment in your ears, causing hair cell damage.
The higher the alcoholic levels in your bloodstream the more vulnerable hair cells become. Hair cells are very important because they are the ones which change the sounds your ear picks up into impulses. These impulses are sent into the inner ear into the brain’s auditory nerve. Unfortunately, your hair cells cannot regenerate so if there’s severe damage you’ll need to wear hearing aids.
Drinking, Hearing and Balance
Alcoholic drinks also negatively affect your vestibular system and could cause trouble with your balance. When you drink alcohol it ends up in your inner ear’s fluids and stays there even when it’s no longer in your brain and bloodstream. Your inner ear is responsible for balance, so problems lead to vertigo. This is also the reason why people have trouble standing up after drinking heavily.
Drinking too much alcohol also causes your blood vessels to swell, which forces more blood to enter your inner ear. This can lead to hearing problems or tinnitus, where you hear a ringing or buzzing sound. Mild cases of tinnitus dissipate after a while but if you drink too much alcohol tinnitus will get worse.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
Also known as “cocktail deafness”, this hearing condition usually affects people who spend a lot of time in noisy nightclubs and bars. As the night goes deeper and you consume more alcohol, people talk louder and music volume goes up too. Usually hearing is restored the following day, but repeated exposure to these environments may cause long term hearing damage.
Noises exceeding 85 decibels (dB) will negatively affect your ears and damage organs related to balance and hearing. If you’re exposed to loud noises and nicotine, it will be hazardous to your hearing.
If you don’t want to end up with hearing aids, limit your alcoholic beverage intake to 1 to 14 drinks a month. It’s also worth pointing out those smoking damages other organs in your body besides hearing, so it’s something you really need to give up.
If you think you need a hearing aid, make sure to get a hearing aid prescription. For more details of our hearing test & assessment, and hearing aid services, please contact HK Hearing & Speech Centre.
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