The holidays are upon us, and many of us enjoy the occasional or not-so-occasional alcoholic drink. When we are with family and friends, the alcohol often flows freely: special occasions are celebrated with champagne, dinner is accompanied by a glass of wine, an ounce or two of liquor may help us relax. There can be a fine line between the dangers and the benefits of alcohol, however.

We all know that excessive drinking is detrimental to our livers. We have also heard that drinking a lot of alcohol can disturb our brains and impair basic motor skills like walking and driving.

Alcoholism can result in diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke as well. But did you know drinking can also affect your hearing?

Our Brains on Alcohol

The brain’s auditory cortex injured by excessive drinking. Because the auditory cortex is the portion of our brains which determines how we hear and process sound, damage to this auditory nerve can distort the translation of sound to our brains. Even if you are hearing sounds, you could have difficulty understanding them.

Understanding speech can then become more difficult overtime, especially people speak quickly. Background noise also becomes more of an issue as your brain struggles to filter out the noises you don’t want to hear.

Our Ears on Alcohol

The small delicate hair cells of our inner ears gather sounds and interpret them into electrical pulses so the brain can give them meaning. Damage to these hair cells can be caused by a number of things, one of which is alcohol consumption. Since damage to these hair cells is permanent, regrowth or repair is impossible—and permanent hearing damage can result.

In the UK a study was conducted which found young people who often imbibed had a greater risk of temporary hearing damage, otherwise known as “cocktail deafness.” Though hearing typically returns in these cases, frequent occurrences of cocktail deafness were found to result in permanent hearing damage in the long run.

Alcohol and Dizziness

Excessive alcohol drinking can also alter the structure and quantity of inner ear fluid. Our feelings of balance rely heavily on this inner ear fluid, so disturbing it can affect us in many ways, affecting even the most basic functions such as walking.

Ingested alcohol is absorbed by the fluid of the inner ear, remaining even after there is no more alcohol in the bloodstream. If you drink frequently, balance problems like vertigo and incidents of dizziness can result. You may feel like the room is turning or feel disoriented.

Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) can also result from excessive drinking, which usually disappears after several hours, though in some it persists longer.

Alcohol and Hearing Health

Excessive drinking can have a lot of consequences, and now you can add diminished hearing health to the list. Fortunately, there are a plethora of resources to help you stop drinking. Your doctor should be able to provide additional encouragement and support as well, or you can seek help from AA or at your church.

Los Gatos Audiology is here to help you protect your hearing and your health. Call today and come in for your yearly hearing exam so you can stay ahead of the curve and protect your hearing, your brain and your health.

We’ve served San Jose and the Bay Area for over 40 years, providing the right solution for Your Life. Your Style.

Los Gatos Audiology 430 Monterey Ave, Ste. 3, Los Gatos, CA 95030. For an appointment please call (408) 354-1312 or visit www.losgatosaudiology.com.

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