Alcohol and Ear Problems – How do these relate?
We all are aware that excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to various serious health complications such as diabetes, liver problems, etc. But, only a handful of people know that alcohol can also have a negative impact on hearing also. Here’s what you all need to know-
5 Ways In Which Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Hearing
1. Shrinks the Auditory Cortex
The habit of drinking alcohol regularly or over-consumption can shrink the auditory complex, which is responsible for processing sounds. The auditory cortex turns the words, music, and other sounds that you hear into sound signals.
Therefore, if this part of the brain shrinks, it can limit the brain’s ability to process sounds leading to decreased hearing abilities. Not only heavy drinkers but moderate drinkers also who drink alcohol for many years can suffer from hearing loss.
According to a German study, drinking for a prolonged period of time can damage the central auditory cortex that increases the time for the brain to process the information. The conclusion drawn was that the person might have difficulty understanding people who speak fast or distinguishing one voice from another.
2. Damages Auditory hair cells permanently
Auditory hair cells are the tiny hair cells inside the ar that convert the captured sounds in the environment into nerve impulses. Supposedly, drinking alcohol excessively can damage the inner hair cells. In other words, nerve impulses don’t reach the brain.
If the hair cells get damaged, these don’t regenerate hence, sounds get converted into impulses. Hearing loss due to this reason is kind of permanent.
3. Causes ringing in your ears
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to swelling of the blood vessels within the ear. This can cause ringing, buzzing, or swooshing sound in the ears. In other words, drinking alcohol excessively can lead to tinnitus. Although this is not fatal in nature it can be really annoying. The condition resolves itself within a few hours. A person who drinks alcohol regularly can have permanent hearing loss.
4. Creates “Cocktail Deafness”
According to a study conducted in London, young adults suffering from alcohol use disorder can have difficulty in understanding lower frequency sounds. The condition of not being able to hear lower frequency sounds when drinking alcohol in a loud bar is known as “cocktail deafness”.
The positive finding from the research was that once the participants stopped drinking, their hearing improved. However, frequent episodes of alcohol-induced hearing loss can lead to permanent damage. Moreover, the effects of “cocktail deafness” are temporary in nature and resolve within a day or two.
5. Puts you Off-balance
This is not a surprise that drinking alcohol can create problems with balance and make someone dizzy and out of sorts. According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, the volume and composition of fluid in the inner ear changes due to alcohol and lead to imbalance.
As the inner ear is responsible for monitoring balance, alcohol in it can cause vertigo along with spatial disorientation. The thing with alcohol is that it can stay in the inner ear even if it is no longer present in blood and brain.
When to Quit Drinking?
Now that you are aware of the effects of alcohol drinking regularly, the question that comes to mind is:what is the right amount of alcohol to drink? Quite frankly, there’s n correct and definite answer to that. An amount appropriate may be okay for a person but not the same as someone else. However, heavy drinking needs to be stopped immediately. In such cases, it is important to seek help from a family physician or help-groups.