It’s not uncommon to have a cocktail or two after work to wind down after a stressful day, or when out to dinner with friends and family. After all, the increase in blood flow experienced while drinking can have some health benefits when done in moderation. For heavy drinkers, defined by the National Institutes of Health as those who consume more than two alcoholic beverages per day, the health risks can be serious. Many know that alcohol consumption affects your brain, heart, and liver; however, it is a little-known fact that drinking alcohol can also damage your hearing.
A study done in London found that alcohol blunts lower frequency sounds that are crucial for speech discrimination. If you’ve ever noticed how a party gets louder as the evening goes on, then you’ve experienced the loss of speech discrimination alcohol produces. This type of hearing loss is also referred to as “cocktail party deafness,” and is usually temporary for those who don’t drink regularly.
Over prolonged periods of heavy drinking, researchers believe the damage to your hearing organs can become permanent – in the same way noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) happens with repeated exposure to loud and consistent sounds.
Researchers in Germany studied the effects of excessive drinking on the central auditory cortex. They discovered that those who drink more than two alcoholic beverages daily, and over long periods of time, suffered damage that affects the way the brain processes sound. This resulted in difficulty hearing individuals who speak quickly or distinguishing voices or sound in environments with background noise. Like all good things, enjoying alcohol in moderation is the only way to protect your hearing when it comes to adult beverages.