11 June 2008

Alcohol may reduce hearing

The ingestion of alcohol increases auditory thresholds and reduces hearing.

Many factors cause hearing loss. Noise exposure is the number one reason followed by ageing, infections and diseases. Alcohol intake may be added to the list, according to a British study.

Alcohol and noise can be detrimental to hearing in combination or separately. The British study aimed to prove that the so-called “cocktail party deafness” is not only caused by the exposure to loud noise. Researchers showed that alcohol intake may be the cause of reduced hearing, at least temporarily.

30 healthy adults, aged 20 to 40 years, with no history of hearing disorders participated in the study. Each participant drank a fixed amount of alcohol before their hearing was tested. Researchers found that the more alcohol ingested the worse the hearing. In particular, the hearing of low frequency sounds like the ones in speech were more affected. The study also indicated that older subjects and those with a previous history of heavy drinking were more affected.

All participants were found to have a temporary hearing loss, although the authors believe that a regular ingestion of alcohol may lead to permanent hearing loss in the long term.

Further research needed

Researchers stress that further research is needed to understand if alcohol intake plays a crucial role in hearing loss. The reason why drinking deteriorates hearing remained unclear in the study. Researchers believe that alcohol may damage the hearing nerves or may interfere in the brain processing of sounds.

Read more:

  • Temporary hearing loss

Source: “The acute effects of alcohol on auditory thresholds”, in BMC Ear and Throat Disorders 2007, 7: 4. Online version: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6815/7/4

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