For many, one part of the holiday season is hitting the cheer — in the form of festive drinking. But when imbibing, it should be remembered that, along with the other well-known negative effects of too much drink, degrading one’s hearing is also on the list.
The first risk for temporary hearing issues might be the holiday party itself. One symptom of alcohol overconsumption is losing track of just how loud one’s drinking environment is. Commonly referred to as “cocktail deafness,” it can result in not bothering to deal with potential damage being done in real-time. This can definitely lead to the ears needing a recuperation period — usually realized the next morning along with the rest of the “whole-body recovery” that is taking place.
Waking up with a pounding headache is obviously alcohol-induced. But so too is that ringing in the ears. By flooding the inner ear with high-alcohol-content blood, the whole delicate mechanism is thrown off and temporary tinnitus can result. The dreaded “spinning of the room” has the same cause, since one’s balance is controlled by the fluid inside the ears — fluid that is now cut with alcohol.
Likewise, as alcohol does what it does it throws some curveballs at the auditory cortex, where the brain does the work of handling the sound data being forwarded to it. That can confuse things in the short-term. Excessive drinking over the long-term can actually shrink the auditory cortex and thereby reduce the brain’s ability to process sound.
Long-term drinking can also cause damage to the tiny hairs — the cochlea — that are absolutely vital to the ability to hear. These hairs don’t regrow like external hair and are very dependent on healthy blood flow, so once they are damaged the ability to hear is degraded.
Just some things to remember when tempted to overindulge.