4 Ways Alcohol Consumption Causes Hearing Impairment – What to Know

People drinking liqour and talking at a dining table

Vision impairment, hangovers, and nausea are among the few side effects of excessive alcohol consumption. What most people don’t realize is that alcohol also impairs their hearing ability. 

It has been well-established of how alcohol consumption over a long period can cause brain damage, resulting in cognitive deficits. Recent studies found out that life-long, cumulative consumption of alcohol can also disrupt the brain’s central auditory pathways, leading to brain shrinkage and loss of hearing. 

According to a study, even low-risk social drinkers are susceptible to this kind of damage to the central auditory cortex of the brain. As their cumulative consumption increases over time, moderate and heavy drinkers are also at risk.

That said, here are four ways alcohol consumption can result in loss of hearing:

1. It shrinks the brain’s central auditory pathways

The brain’s auditory cortex is responsible for processing sounds as it converts the sound signals from your ears into different words, sounds, and music you hear. Excessive alcohol drinking shrinks the part of the brain, limiting your ability to process any sound and hear them. Even social drinkers to moderate ones are at risk since the effects of alcohol on your brain are cumulative.

2. It causes ringing on your ears or Tinnitus

When you drink alcohol, the blood flow to your inner ear is enhanced, and blood vessels get swollen, which can lead to Tinnitus. It is a buzzing, swooshing, or ringing sound that could only be temporary but can be annoying. Excessive alcohol drinking, on the other hand, may result in permanent Tinnitus.

3. It can permanently damage the auditory hair cell

Your inner ear has tiny hair cells that are responsible for translating sounds from your surroundings into various nerve impulses (which are then directed to the auditory cortex for processing). Overconsumption of alcohol can cause damage to those hair cells blocking the sounds that get to your ears, ultimately leading to hearing impairment. Those cells do not regenerate, so once they are damaged, they are destroyed forever.  Any loss of hearing due to this is always permanent.

4. It affects the amount and composition of fluid in your inner ear

The fluid in your inner ear is important in helping to maintain your balance. When you consume alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed into the fluid in your ears and gets trapped there even after it has left your bloodstream and the brain. Not only are you at risk of hearing loss, but the alcohol in the fluids can lead to balance issues and vertigo or make you feel spatially disoriented or dizzy. That is why many people who’ve had too much alcohol the night before will feel the spins the following morning.

From temporary to permanent loss of hearing

Drinking and noise combined or separately can lead to temporary loss of hearing. Regular consumption of alcohol over a certain period can, in fact, lead to permanent hearing damage. Researchers found that the more alcohol intake you have in your system, the worse the hearing problem will be. Overall, it is best to avoid or at least minimize your alcohol intake to help prevent those problems from occurring.  

If you are looking for a hearing aid clinic in Langley, BC, get in touch with us to see how we can help.


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