As fun as having a few drinks is, we all know that alcohol can have serious consequences on our health. Liver damage, high blood pressure, heart disease, and an increased risk of strokes are the most commonly known side effects of excessive alcohol consumption. However, did you know that excessive drinking can also increase the likelihood of developing hearing loss? This is due to the negative effects that alcohol has on your central auditory cortex. Here is how hearing loss and alcohol are related.
Alcohol can damage your central auditory cortex
Excessive drinking can damage the brain’s auditory cortex, which is responsible for how your brain processes sound. The auditory nerve sends the auditory information from the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain, where they are translated into recognisable sounds. Even if the ears appear to be functioning correctly, the brain may still be unable to process the sounds.
Damage to the auditory cortex will extend the time it takes to process sound, making it challenging to understand people who talk quickly and to differentiate between various sounds and voices in noisy environments. This temporary sensation is referred to as ‘cocktail deafness’, as one has difficulty understanding lower frequency sounds, making speech sound distorted. While this type of hearing loss is only temporary, the effects can become permanent with continued heavy drinking.
Alcohol can affect the miniscule hair cells in your ears
Excessive drinking can lead to hearing loss as alcohol can cause a toxic environment in your ear, which is referred to as ototoxicity. The inner ear contains miniscule hair cells that translate the sounds our ears collect into electronic impulses, which the inner ear then sends along the auditory nerve to the brain. Alcohol can destroy these hair cells, which cannot regenerate. As the damage to these hair cells is permanent, the hearing loss is permanent too.
Alcohol can increase your chances of tinnitus
Another link between hearing loss and alcohol is that excessive drinking can lead to tinnitus. Tinnitus occurs when alcohol causes blood vessels to swell, meaning there is greater blood flow within the inner ear. While this usually disappears within a few hours, excessive drinking on a regular basis can result in permanent tinnitus.
Organise your next hearing check with The Art of Hearing
If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss as a result of regular drinking, it’s time to organise your next hearing check with The Art of Hearing. Our expert Perth audiologists can perform a routine hearing check and discuss the lifestyle changes that can be taken to protect your hearing, such as reducing or moderating your alcohol consumption. Get in touch with The Art of Hearing by calling us on (08) 9390 8811 or book an appointment at our Perth audiology clinic online.