April is Alcohol Awareness Month; it was established by The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) to decrease stigma associated with alcohol addiction while increasing awareness and understanding the addiction, its causes, effective treatments, and recovery. In observance of Alcohol Awareness Month, take a few moments to learn about the effects of alcohol on your hearing health and the connection between hearing loss and alcohol misuse.
According to University of Michigan Health, a recent national study revealed that hearing impaired people under the age of 50, particularly ages 35 – 49, misuse prescription opioids two times more than their hearing peers and are also more likely to abuse alcohol. The lead researcher in the study, Michael McKee, M.D., MPH, noted that the disproportionate share of hearing loss patients who also struggle with alcohol and substance abuse may be in some way connected to mental health problems that many hearing loss patients experience. For instance, depression linked to hearing loss can attribute to social isolation and result in higher usage of alcohol and substances.
While the recent study shows hearing loss can contribute to an increase in alcohol use and abuse, previous studies have shown that drinking can also negatively impact your hearing. A German study revealed that excessive drinking over an extended period of time damages the central auditory cortex which alters how the brain processes sounds. In other words, your ears may be fine, but your brain may be unable to process certain sounds correctly. For instance, excessive drinkers may have a harder time understanding people who speak quickly or have difficulty distinguishing sounds when there is background noise. Additionally, heavy drinking creates a harsh inner ear environment, causing irreversible damage to the hair cells in the ear, and ultimately, hearing loss.
For more information on alcohol addiction and treatments, visit NCADD. If you are in the South Florida area and have questions about your hearing health and hearing loss, contact the experts at New Generation Hearing Centers.