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Alcohol and Hearing Loss

Drinking alcohol has become a part of our culture for about 70% of us.  With noise 85 db is the threshold level where harm to your hearing loss begins.  Is there a threshold level for alcohol consumption and what is it?  Also, remember that many times drinking involves parties and music and noise so be aware of not frequenting environments with over 85 db of noise.  Below Lansdowne Hearing will show you some things to think about regarding alcohol and hearing loss.

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Effects on the brain

Drinking too much can put you at risk for developing hearing loss.  This is in addition to the development of chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Drinking a lot ruins the auditory cortex in the brain, affecting the way your brain processes sound. We all know alcohol circulates in your blood stream and in your brain and this is where the damage occurs.  The auditory nerve is responsible for transferring the auditory information from the sounds we hear in the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain where they are translated. So, even though the ears may be functioning properly, the brain may be unable to correctly process the sounds.

German researchers at the University of Ulm discovered that excessive drinking over a long period of time damages the central auditory cortex, increasing the time it takes to process sound. That means you might have trouble hearing people who speak quickly, or distinguishing one voice or sound from another in environments where there is a lot of background noise.


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Effects on the ears

Excessive drinking causes a toxic environment in the inner ear. The inner ear houses tiny hair cells responsible for translating the sounds your ears collect into electronic impulses the inner ear sends along the auditory nerve to the brain. The toxicity created in the inner ear by excessive alcohol damages and destroys the hair cells, and they do not regenerate. Because the damage is permanent, so too is the resulting hearing loss.

A study of young adults in London revealed that heavy drinking leads to problems understanding lower frequency sounds. This condition is also known appropriately as “cocktail deafness.” Although hearing 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.


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Dizzyness from alcohol

Anyone who has had the experience of overindulging during a night of drinking knows firsthand that drinking can create problems with your balance and make you feel dizzy and out of sorts.

According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, alcohol changes the volume and composition of fluid in the inner ear, which can cause 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. Because the inner ear monitors balance, this can cause vertigo along with spatial disorientation. This is often why people experience “the spins” after a night of heavy drinking, and it can sometimes be enough for any fun-loving drinker to swear off alcohol forever.

As if that’s not enough, the dizziness you experience when you’ve had one too many can be accompanied by tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. The tinnitus happens when alcohol causes blood vessels swell resulting in greater blood flow within the inner ear. While this condition isn’t life-threatening and often dissipates in a few hours, it can be extremely annoying.

Trying to drink so your mental functions are not blurred is the best way not to affect your hearing loss.  This could be one drink, three drinks or another number depending on the person.

Source:  Healthy Hearing


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