How Does Alcohol Affect Your Hearing?
There are several ways that drinking alcohol causes hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
#1) Drinking Alcohol Shrinks The Auditory Cortex
The auditory cortex is the part of the brain that’s responsible for processing sounds. In other words, it turns the sound signals from your ears into the words, music and other sounds that you hear. Excessive alcohol consumption can shrink the auditory cortex, which limits your ability to process sounds – and ultimately hear them.
It’s not only binge drinking that can damage the auditory cortex. The effect of alcohol consumption on your brain is cumulative, so even moderate drinkers who drink alcohol for many years can suffer from hearing loss as a result of their drinking.
#2) Drinking Alcohol Damages Auditory Hair Cells – Permanently
There are tiny hair cells in your inner ear that translate the sounds in your environment into nerve impulses (which go to the auditory cortex in your brain for processing). Excessive alcohol consumption can damage those inner ear hair cells, so the sounds don’t get sent to your brain, causing hearing loss. Once those hair cells are damaged they do not regenerate. Any hearing loss resulting from damage to those inner ear hair cells is permanent.
#3) Drinking Alcohol Causes Ringing In Your Ears (Tinnitus)
Drinking alcohol increases blood flow to the inner ear, which can cause tinnitus – a ringing, buzzing or swooshing sound in the ears. This condition can resolve itself in a few hours, but can still be quite annoying while it is present. Excessive drinking on a regular basis can lead to permanent tinnitus.
#4) Drinking Alcohol Creates “Cocktail Deafness”
Hearing health professionals have coined the term “Cocktail Deafness” to describe noise-induced hearing loss that can occur when drinking alcohol in a loud bar or nightclub.
Loud music, loud voices talking over the music, the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, and inhaling first or second-hand cigarette smoke can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.
The effects of “cocktail deafness” are often temporary, and resolve within a day or so. But exposure to these conditions often and for long periods of time can permanently damage your hearing.
#5) Drinking Alcohol Puts You Off Balance
Alcohol gets absorbed into the fluid in your inner ear, and it can remain there long after you’ve stopped drinking – even after there’s no more alcohol in your bloodstream. This can lead to vertigo and balance issues, and is why many people feel ‘the spins’ the morning after a night of heavy drinking.
What Can You Do?
If you suspect you may have alcohol-induced hearing loss, come in for a FREE hearing screening and consultation to discuss your hearing health, and how to protect your hearing from further damage.