COULD DRINKING ALCOHOL AFFECT YOUR HEARING?

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, there is no shortage of holiday parties and gatherings, and the alcohol often flows freely at such events. We use alcohol for lots of special occasions: we ring in the new year with champagne, on vacation we may appreciate a glass of wine with dinner. We may even have a cocktail to unwind. Studies have shown that there can be benefits to alcohol in moderation, though drinking too much can also result in serious health implications.

Drinking Too Much

We hear often to never drink and drive, and that a lot of drinking can eventually cause liver problems. Regular alcohol consumption can also impact cognitive function, even weakening basic functions such as driving.

We also hear from our doctors that high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease can result from heavy drinking on a regular basis. One thing you may not have heard is that excessive alcohol consumption could also increase the likelihood of hearing damage.

Our Brains on Alcohol

The auditory cortex of the brain, which translates noises from our ears into meaningful sound, can be harmed by drinking too much. When there is damage to the auditory cortex, our brains can “forget” how to translate the sound from the world so we can understand it. Even when you hear the sounds around you, you could have difficulty understanding those sounds.

When speech is spoken rapidly, you may begin to have trouble understanding what is being said. Distinguishing between varying sounds and voices and sounds can become a problem, as well as filtering out background noise.

Our Ears on Alcohol

Deep inside of our ears we have delicate, tiny hair cells that gather sounds and interpret them into electrical pulses to the brain. These little hair cells can be damaged by alcohol use, and they cannot regrow or repair themselves.  

A phenomenon called “cocktail deafness” was discovered by a study in the UK that followed young adults who became drunk and found that they sometimes experienced temporary hearing damage. Though hearing typically returned for these young people after a few hours, recurrent bouts of cocktail deafness can result in permanent hearing loss in the long run.

Alcohol and Dizziness

If you have ever spent a night of heavy drinking out, you may have found that you experienced a feeling of dizziness or imbalance while you were inebriated.

This feeling of imbalance is the result of a change in your inner ear fluid, which controls your feelings of balance. Drinking too much can cause this change in the inner ear. This is why motor functions like walking and driving are affected when we are drunk: we feel unbalanced and have difficulty with perception.

Alcohol is absorbed into the inner ear fluid, remaining there longer than it does in the bloodstream. If this happens too often, episodes of vertigo or dizziness may result. You may feel disoriented, like the room is spinning, and have difficulty with ordinary spatial function.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears can be another side effect of excessive alcohol consumption—it usually disappears in just a few hours, but some episodes can last longer.

Alcohol and Hearing Loss

There are many reasons to abstain from heavy drinking: hearing health is just one more. There are many resources to help you quit drinking, but the most important thing is your determination to change.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

FIVE SHOCKING LINKS TO HEARING DAMAGE

Most of us understand the most commonly-known causes of hearing loss: loud noises, excessive ear wax, aging… but there are some other causes of hearing loss you may not have known about. Here are five links to hearing loss that you may not have expected.

Medical Drugs: Antibiotics and Over-the-Counter

Ototoxic drugs, such as NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin) as well as some antibiotics, have been known to cause damage to the inner ear cells for quite some time. This damage can be temporary or permanent, and other symptoms of ototoxic medications are vertigo, dizziness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Doctors first noticed the phenomenon of ototoxicity with the development of the antibiotic streptomycin, used to treat tuberculosis. While it often cured patients of the disease, they were left with irreversible hearing loss as a result. Since then, hearing loss has been a common side effect of the aminoglycoside class of antibiotics.

Stress

Everyone knows that chronic stress can cause health problems, and now we know that stress can even affect hearing! Since hearing loss can be caused by various health issues, many of which can be caused by stress (high blood pressure, heart disease, etc), it follows that stress can be a cause of hearing loss as well. It becomes a vicious cycle: stress leads to sickness, which leads to more stress, more sickness hearing loss, more stress….

Obesity

Like stress, obesity can cause a host of health issues, many of which are connected to hearing damage in one form or another. Researchers have found a correlation between higher waist circumference and the likelihood of hearing problems. They think that extra weight can put strain on the delicate capillaries all over the body, and which the inner ear relies on for good hearing. When the delicate hair cells of the inner ear do not receive enough blood flow and oxygen, they can die, causing irreversible hearing loss.

Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimated that in 2012 30 million people had diabetes, and another 86 million were pre-diabetic with high blood glucose numbers. Diabetics are twice as likely as non-diabetics to have hearing loss, so this can be a cause for concern on a number of levels. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, don’t forget to have an annual hearing screening to catch any issues early on. You can also protect your hearing by staying away from very loud noises and turning down the volume on your music.

Heart Disease

Since heart disease can cause changes in blood flow to all parts of the body, the small capillaries can be most affected. The capillaries of the inner ear provide vital oxygen and blood flow to the delicate inner ear hair cells, and these cells can die if they do not get enough oxygen. These hair cells serve to communicate information from outward sounds to the brain, and once they die they do not regenerate, so this causes permanent hearing damage.

Just a few more reasons to take care of your overall health—it can affect everything—including hearing health!

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

TWO LOCATIONS TO SERVE YOU BETTER

 San Mateo

88 N. San Mateo Drive
San Mateo, California, 94401

Phone: (650) 342-9449
Fax: (650) 342-4435
Email: info@calhearing.com 

San Carlos

1008 Laurel Street
San Carlos, California, 94070

Phone: (650) 342-9449
Fax: (650) 342-4435
Email: info@calhearing.com

WHAT IS VERTIGO AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Though there are different types of Vertigo, they are all caused by issues with the inner ear.

One type is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which can be caused by a build-up of small particles of calcium in the inner ear. Another cause can be Vestibular neuritis, which is an infection in the nerves of the inner ear. Meniere’s disease can also be the culprit, causing fluid retention in the inner ear. Vertigo is marked by a dizziness that will not abate. You may feel off-balance or like you are spinning, or even that everything else is moving. This can give you the feeling of being pulled in one direction and can make it difficult to keep your balance.

Dizziness is the most common symptom of Vertigo, but did you know there are other symptoms as well?

Symptoms and Side Effects of Vertigo

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is another common symptom that can accompany Vertigo. At first the ringing or buzzing sounds may only be in conjunction with episodes of Vertigo, but some people experience an escalation as the noise becomes more intense and continual.

Migraines can be a symptom of Vertigo, and they can be caused by fluid or calcium particle build-up in the inner ear.

Nausea can also accompany Vertigo (as well as migraines), as you feel off-balance or as if you are spinning. In severe cases, vomiting can result.

Eye twitching, also called nystagmus, can be a symptom of Vertigo. Stress and fatigue can cause the eyelid muscles to spasm for hours or even days. Rest will most often relieve this symptom.

Hearing loss may follow episodes of Vertigo, especially if it is caused by Meniere’s disease. Low-frequency, progressive hearing loss in a single ear is commonly experienced in these cases. Additionally you may find your hearing loses quality: becoming tinny or even experiencing pain with loud noises. Ultimately if progression continues, deafness in one ear can result.

Panic Attacks can occur as a result of anxiety from not knowing when the next episode of Vertigo will occur.

Sweating is a common side effect of Vertigo as well. Vertigo attacks can cause sweating because they often cause panic, which results in sweating, as well as chills.

Fatigue can also be a result of Vertigo, because the state of feeling constantly unbalanced can be physically exhausting. The uncertainty of when an episode may occur can also cause worry and mental stress that can make a person tired.

Ear pressure, or a feeling of “fullness” inside of the ear, also called Aural Fullness, can be caused by barometric shifts and be an accompanying sign of Vertigo. This can sometimes be triggered by pressure changes, such as when ascending or descending in an airplane.

Vertigo is often temporary, but if there is an underlying condition that is causing it, that should be addressed to resolve or alleviate the issue. Seeing your doctor to determine the cause is necessary to know what treatment is needed. A visit to your audiologist for a hearing screening is also important to ensure your hearing is not affected.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.