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.

SUMMER TRAVEL TIPS FOR HEARING AIDS

Summer travel is a great and see new places and take a break from work or everyday life. Traveling may seem a bit more complicated if you have hearing loss, however, so here are some tips to make traveling the relaxing venture it was meant to be.

Hearing Loss and Traveling

When you have hearing loss, problems can arise while traveling. When you are in an unfamiliar environment, you may not recognize sounds such as warnings like smoke alarms, you may miss announcements at the airport or other locations, or hotel room telephones.

You may not have access to other usual conveniences such as accommodation for hearing dogs or sign language interpreters.

Planning Your Travel

Many of these issues can be sidestepped with proper planning, and you can relax and enjoy your vacation.

Here are some tips to simplify your travel:

  • If you are arranging your travel with a travel agent, see if it’s possible to plan your your trip in person to guarantee thorough communication and adequate planning for your whole trip. Most agents will be happy to contact airlines, hotels and other destinations to make reservations and accommodations.
  • Try to make as many travel arrangements in advance as possible and be sure to get a hard copy of the confirmation so you can check that everything is accurate. Also let someone at each destination know that you have a hearing issue, so they can make accommodations before your arrival.
  • We can access most of the resources we need on the internet: maps, confirmation numbers, reservations, and itineraries as well as other information to make sure your trip goes according to plan.
  • Always arrive early to the train station, airport, or bus terminal. Let a representative know you about your limitations so they can alert you to boarding calls and other relevant announcement.
  • Before boarding, always confirm your destination and flight number. Pay attention to the display board so you don’t miss changes in status or other information.
  • On airplanes, aisle seats may help you to more easily communicate with flight staff. Let them know you are hearing impaired when you board so they can communicate important messages.
  • Your fellow travelers can also be very helpful—all you have to do is ask– you may even make a new friend!

Traveling with Hearing Aids

If you use a hearing device, a little extra preparation will go a long way to make sure you don’t have unexpected issues during your travels.

  • You may want to bring a dehumidifier if you have one to prevent unanticipated moisture in other cliamtes.
  • While en route, try to carry your hearing aid equipment so you aren’t stuck without it if your luggage is lost temporarily.
  • Having extra tubing and batteries for your hearing aids can be a lifesaver if you need them and don’t have a place to buy them at your destination.

With foresight and preparation, you can have a great vacation!

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