Everyone has bad habits, but are yours harming your hearing health? It turns out, it’s not just aging and noise exposure that can damage your hearing, so can drinking, smoking and vaping. We review how these habits contribute to hearing loss below.
Heavy drinking damages the auditory cortex within the brain, which affects the way your brain processes sound. This can have both short-term and long-term effects.
In the short term, binge drinking can lead to a phenomenon researchers in London have referred to as “cocktail deafness.” Cocktail deafness refers to temporary low-frequency hearing loss that is the result of drinking alcohol. The researchers hypothesize that, though the effects are short-term, repeated instances can lead to long-term damage.
In the long term, researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany report that alcohol damages the auditory cortex, resulting in increased time to process sound. People with this type of damage may have difficulty understanding when people speak quickly, distinguishing one voice from another and hearing in environments with a lot of background noise.
The hair cells that convert soundwaves into electrical energy the brain interprets as sound that reside in the inner ear rely on a healthy supply of oxygen from the blood. The nicotine found in cigarettes restricts blood flow to the ears, depriving these cells of the oxygen they need, resulting in permanent damage.
This is true even for people exposed to cigarette smoke secondhand. One study found that adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to develop low-frequency hearing loss than those not exposed.
Smoking has also been linked to tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
Just like cigarettes, vapes and e-cigarettes contain nicotine that restricts blood flow to the inner ears, causing damage. In addition, the e-juices contain hundreds of chemicals with unknown side effects. One of which, propylene glycol, has been linked to sudden hearing loss.
If you want to quit smoking or vaping, nicotine patches from Kilmarnock Pharmacy may help.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call The Audiology Offices today.