Drinking too much alcohol is often associated with liver problems, but did you know alcohol can have detrimental effects on your hearing too? Believe it or not, your daily cocktail is not only changing your liver and blood pressure, it’s negatively affecting your brain and ears as well.
Alcohol affects hearing
First and foremost, excessive drinking impacts the brain by damaging the auditory cortex within. The auditory cortex is responsible for processing sound. It takes the sounds we hear and translates it so we can understand what we just heard. So, even if the ears are working by sending the sound signals to the brain, the brain can have difficulties processing these signals.
A German study found that excessive drinking over a long period damages the auditory cortex, delaying the time it takes for the brain to process sound. This impairs your ability to understand speech spoken quickly or when there is background noise present.
Excessive drinking has also been found to impair the inner ear by creating a toxic environment. There are tiny hair cells within the inner ear that help translate sound to send to the auditory cortex. These hair cells become damaged as a result of excessive alcohol intake, and unfortunately, these cells do not regenerate.
A London study conducted on young adults found they had difficulties understanding sounds in low frequencies. This condition is known as “cocktail deafness.” Among the participants, hearing did return back to normal once they stopped drinking, but researchers theorize that long-term damage may occur if a person experiences frequent bouts of alcohol-induced hearing loss.
Lastly, if you’ve ever drunk too much, you will relate to the feeling of dizziness. Alcohol changes the volume and composition of the fluid in the inner ear, which leads to dizziness, imbalances, and hearing loss. Alcohol is absorbed in the inner ear and can linger there much longer than when it stays in the blood or brain. This is why people will experience “the spins” after a night of excessive drinking.
This dizziness may also be experienced with minor tinnitus or ringing of the ears. This occurs because alcohol causes the blood vessels in the ears to swell, which increases blood flow. Although not a permanent condition, it can be annoying while it’s occurring.
As you can see, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can have detrimental effects on your hearing. This is just another reason why you should moderate your alcohol intake. Hearing loss is often a permanent condition, so once it’s gone, you cannot get it back.
If you are having troubles cutting back on your alcohol intake, reaching out to friends, family, your church, or even a group like Alcoholics Anonymous can help you work past your issues. Not only will cessation of drinking help your hearing, but it can go a long way in improving your overall health too.