Hearing Loss Linked to Heavy Drinking and Smoking
St. Patrick’s Day is the fourth most popular drinking day in America after New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. While all this celebrating may be good for the soul, it can have serious health consequences if handled irresponsibly.
Most people are aware of the dangers of drunk driving, but not many know how excess partying could affect their hearing. Studies have shown that heavy smokers and drinkers are at a much higher risk of developing early hearing loss. Both cigarette smoke and alcohol can cause cardiovascular problems that will inevitably damage the delicate systems of the ear. When blood flow to the ear is reduced, irreplaceable sensory cells begin to die and a hearing loss develops.
The toxic chemicals in cigarettes such as ammonia, arsenic, and formaldehyde all weaken your blood vessels and damage the ear. In addition to harming their own hearing, smokers also put those around them at risk. When compared to people with no exposure to smoke, non-smokers who live with smokers are twice as likely to show signs of hearing loss. Age is also an important factor, as the risk of hearing loss for teenagers exposed to smoke is nearly three times higher than those who avoid it.
Alcohol is also known to be very harmful for the brain. Excessive drinking kills cells in the central auditory cortex and over time may lower overall brain function. While this usually occurs over a long period of time, even moderate drinkers are at risk of losing their hearing because of alcohol.
Initially, this hearing loss may only occur temporarily after a night of heavy drinking or smoking, but the effects can become permanent without proper care. You may have noticed this temporary sensation when, after a few drinks, it becomes difficult to follow conversations in a noisy environment such as a cocktail party. This phenomenon is known as “cocktail deafness” and occurs because the presence of alcohol in the brain first affects low-frequency hearing, making speech sound distorted. Tinnitus is often a temporary side effect of heavy drinking, but it can become permanent if the alcohol consumption continues.
Your sense of hearing is worth more than any party. Even if you are only an occasional smoker or drinker, it is important to know the risks associated with partying before going out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or any other holiday. If you are a regular smoker or drinker, it’s not too late to protect your hearing and prevent further damage. Those who quit smoking can expect their oxygen and carbon monoxide levels to improve within just a few days, which can help to heal nerve cells in the ear. Avoiding alcohol can also keep your brain healthy and free from ototoxic chemicals.
If you smoke or drink regularly and have noticed the first signs of a hearing loss, the materials available on our site can provide the help you need to restore your hearing and connect with a hearing care professional. We hope you have a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day!