Studies have shown that high alcohol consumption over a long period of time can result in damage to the central auditory cortex of the brain and may lead to brain shrinkage. Because the damage to the auditory nerves adds up, even moderate drinkers may risk nerve damage and hearing loss.
Researchers from the University of Ulm in Germany tested both heavy and social drinkers BAEP levels (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potentials) by testing the level of damage in the part of the brain that enables you to hear. The results indicate that drinking affects the ability to hear.
Damage to the actual ear
The alcohol researchers believe that drinking can result in brain damage, while the quantity of alcohol and the length of time needed to accomplish this remain unknown. So even though the ears may still be functioning perfectly, the brain is longer able to process the sounds.
People who suffer from alcoholism may also have damage within their ears. The high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream can create a toxic environment which can damage the delicate hair cells in the cochlea. This condition is known as ototoxicity.
From temporary to permanent hearing loss
According to a British study, alcohol and noise can cause temporary hearing loss in combination or separately. All of the participants in a study were found to have temporary hearing loss. The researchers also believe that a regular ingestion of alcohol may lead to permanent hearing loss in the long term.
The researchers showed that the more alcohol ingested the worse the hearing was, at least temporarily. In particular, the hearing of low frequency sounds like the ones in speech were most affected.
The British study also indicated that older subjects and those with a previous history of heavy drinking were more affected.
Sources: www.prfire.co.uk; www.about.com; www.medicalnewstoday.com