Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Excessive Alcohol Can Influence Hearing Loss

Reference: Connors, Aoife. 2010. "Excessive Alcohol Can Influence Hearing Loss." Irish Medical Times, November 19. Accessed December 6, 2010. http://www.imt.ie/news/2010/11/excessive-alcohol-can-influence-hearing-loss.html.

Researchers from the University of Ulm in Germany tested both heavy and social drinkers’ Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potentials (BAEP) levels, by testing the level of damage in the part of the brain that enables one to hear. The results indicated that alcohol consumption affects the ability to hear. Alcohol could damage the central auditory cortex of the brain, therefore affecting the ability to hear: the ears might function fine, but the brain cannot process the sounds due to the damage to the auditory nerves. The quantity of alcohol and the length of time needed for the brain damage are unknown, which implies that even moderate drinkers may risk the hearing loss. The study also found that people with alcoholism may suffer damage within their ears, since high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream can create a toxic environment known as ototoxicity, which can damage the delicate hair cells in the cochlea.

Reflection: Excessive drinking is known to have bad influences in health, but it was the first time that I heard any connection made between drinking and hearing. Drunkenness is often accompanied with temporal numbness, and the past British study results of alcohol and noise causing temporary hearing loss is not that surprising. However, the fact that drinking could damange the auditory cortex, is quite serious (well, now I am glad that I don't drink). The article did not describe the study results with specific numbers, but the implication that even social drinkers might experience the brain damage, calls for immediate further investigation. I found the affect of alcoholism to the cochlea also to be very interesting; I would like to know how alcohol can create a toxic environment for the cochlea. In any means, excessive and regular alcohol consumption likely to lead to hearing loss, either through brain or cochlea damage.


Alina said...

While I don’t doubt the bad influence alcohol has on us, I also don’t believe all alcohol is bad. For example, the benefits moderate red wine drinking has on our health are universally known. This is to challenge the point made by the author of this article that even social drinking may be detrimental to hearing – while detrimental in one aspect, it may be beneficial in another. By no means, I do not disregard this point, but I believe that anything in excess is contrary to beneficial. This article proves that alcohol, like any drug (alcohol is a psychoactive drug), has bad influences over us; alcohol acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function. Before reading this article I never connected alcohol with hearing loss. Interesting points that the article makes are that a) although the ear may function perfectly, the brain is no longer able to process the sound and b) that high alcohol consumption over a long period of time can result in damage to central auditory cortex and may lead to brain shrinkage! In my life I came upon a few people who were both heavy drinkers and who had hearing problems, so I am able to relate to this research and hope for its validity in convincing them of the harmful effect of alcohol consumption. At the same time I believe that more research has to be done to ensure these effects of hearing loss are solely on the base of drinking, not exposure to loud music/noise (clubs, bars, rock concerts, etc) or other aspects of their lives.

Matuas Seeker said...

long period of time can result in damage to the central auditory cortex of the brain and may lead to brain shrinkage. I know is late but when someone wrote such B-S first this study concluded that this is due brainstem white matter dysfunction (white matter can regenerate) Byrnes from that what she say we can conlude that she is highly incompetent