How Alcohol Affects Hearing Loss | An Alarming Fact

Written by the Nano Hearing Aids Team
Reviewed for Accuracy by Lindsay Roberts, AuD.

Lindsay Roberts
How Alcohol Affects Hearing Loss | An Alarming Fact

Many Americans enjoy a glass of wine or maybe a few beers from time to time. There are about 24 million people in the States who consume about 70 drinks on average per week. Only 30 percent of American adults do not drink any alcohol at all. A common question often arises in scenarios such as this; Does it affect our hearing somehow? Also, what is the safe level of alcohol consumption that will not cause any hearing? As you can probably imagine, the answer is a bit complex, but there are indeed some key takeaways for the hearing impaired to think about.

Can Alcohol Cause Hearing Loss?

You have likely read somewhere that alcohol can lead to a loss of hearing. This is an exaggeration in most cases, but it is important to note that alcohol does cause effects to occur in our brains and can greatly impact on how people hear. Moderate consumption of alcohol will not leave you deaf. That is also something that we think is important to mention here. 

Drinking and hearing loss is interconnected and if you intake alcohol regularly, know that alcohol can damage the part of the brain responsible for processing the auditory signals; it is known as the central auditory cortex. Scientists have been able to come to this conclusion after a lot of research and studies. These studies were able to show that regular drinkers were much more at risk of developing hearing loss than those who are not. 

The studies also showed that the rate of response of people who are heavy drinkers was found to correlate with poorer hearing. This is the most unambiguous indication that heavy drinking can affect our hearing abilities, and the effects of alcohol on the ears will be pretty adverse. 

The question that arises after all of the above is how much you can drink without risking any adverse effects for your hearing and what causes hearing loss that is irreversible. Scientists have not been able to answer this particular question directly, and to be honest; and they are a little unsure about this. Some scientists believe that a regular intake of alcohol can “build up” over some time. Some scientists believe that binge drinking is the main culprit here. One thing that we can say with absolute certainty is this- heavy and regular drinking will affect your hearing adversely. Alcohol and Hearing loss is linked to one another.

Man drinking alcohol

Does Alcohol Affect The Ears As Well?

There have numerous studies that have looked into whether regular drinking affects the ear as well. The results are pretty exciting and will be problematic if you happen to be a heavy drinker. 

It is important to remember that our ears have a large concentration of fine delicate hairs. These hairs are responsible for creating a sort of nervous impulse whenever they vibrate. These vibrations are sent as electrical signals to our brains. Research has been able to determine that alcohol can have a massive effect on these essential hairs. It is through this process that the hearing of the drinker is damaged. 

The thing that seems to happen is that when you drink, it creates an environment for these hairs, which is very toxic. As a result of this, the strands may become weakened, and it will then cause them to fail to operate correctly. Instead, what happens is that they stop working and the person to whom this is happening will have their hearing gradually degraded. 

The effects seem to be affecting the perception of sounds that are in the low-frequency spectrum. You may have even personally experienced this at some busy bars. You might have had a bit too much to drink, and you may have noticed that it becomes harder to make out conversations. There’s even an actual term for this, “cocktail deafness.” This typically refers to deafness that is temporary and is caused by alcohol. 

Recently, however, we have come to learn that this type of cocktail deafness can last a lot longer and can be more damaging than just a couple of hours of poor hearing. Once again, we mustn’t exaggerate things, but regular drinking does seem to have the capacity to cause damage to the hairs of the ear and do it for good, probably. 

Alcohol makes us make idiotic decisions that are bad for our ears

Alcohol makes us make idiotic decisions that are bad for our ears

Credit: Northwestern Medicine 

The harmful effects of alcohol regarding hearing are not just confined to the biological and physical processes. Whenever we drink too much, the part of our brain that regulates our behavior and stops us from engaging in risky behavior does not work properly. We engage in behavior we would not normally do and do things that are out of our nature. Very often, these behaviors are incredibly harmful to the health of our ears. 

Just for the sake of example, consider this scenario. You are experiencing cocktail deafness in a bar that is particularly loud and has booming music playing. In this case, are you likely to go to a quiet corner or outside to continue a conversation? Also, if you are at a nightclub or a loud music venue and you are drunk, will you be able to ration the time you are exposed to loud noise? The answer is probably not. 

All of the above is before exposing yourself to other risks, such as accidents that arise due to alcohol consumption. 


Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can you put alcohol in your ear to get water out?

Ans: Rubbing alcohol has excellent use to emit water out of the ear canal that accidentally has been poured. A combination of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar help to dry your ear. This method is popular among swimmers to maintain their ear surface dry and hygiene.


Nano Hearing Aids has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial privacy policy.

Contributed by Debbie Clason, Healthy Hearing
Last updated November 15, 2019

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