How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

People love to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. There is actually a scientific reason for this. Alcohol increases activity of dopamine and releases endorphins, producing feelings of joy, pleasure, and euphoria. Similarly smoking tobacco releases dopamine when tobacco reaches the brain. While both these substances can create a lot of joy, the problem with both is that it is temporary and they both have the potential to be very addictive. 

If you enjoy smoking and drinking you have most likely heard of the many health risks of both of these activities. Smoking has been linked to cancer and lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, while excessive alcohol use increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and liver damage. If you need one more reason to cut back or quit either of these habits, now researchers are finding that both smoking and drinking can cause permanent damage to your hearing.

Smokers More Likely to Have Hearing Loss

Research shows that those who smoke are much more likely to suffer from hearing loss, a Japanese study suggests. The study was led by Huanhuan Hu of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo. The study compared data on approximately 50,000 Japanese workers, ages 20 to 64, without hearing loss. After a maximum follow-up of eight years, the study found that more than 5,100 people developed hearing loss. When comparing those who smoked to non-smokers, they were 60 percent more likely to develop high-frequency hearing loss, which makes it more difficult to understand speech in noisy environments. The study also found that those who currently smoked were 20 percent more likely to develop low frequency hearing loss which makes it more challenging to detect deep voices.

How Smoking Leads to Hearing Loss

Nicotine is an ototoxic chemical, meaning it is a substance which damages the tiny hair-like cells of your inner ear. These cells are responsible for sending audio information from your ear to your brain. When these cells are damaged permanent hearing loss is the result. When mixed with noise the effects of ototoxic chemicals can be compounded.

Drinking and Hearing Loss

A drink every now and then can’t hurt you. In fact, research suggests that a glass of wine daily is good for heart health. Many believe that one to two drinks a day can reduce inflammation, promote healthy cholesterol levels, improve insulin resistance, and help blood vessels function properly. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to alcohol. Research from the University of Ulm in Germany examined the hearing of heavy drinkers, as well as social drinkers to ascertain a connection. The researchers found that alcohol consumption can damage the central auditory cortex in the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for interpreting the sounds picked up by the ears. The more you drink the more of a risk you put on your hearing health.

When Temporary Becomes Permanent

Did you know that you can experience temporary hearing loss after a night of heavy drinking? This is quite common and can often be a combination of loud music at a bar or party mixed with the chemical damage to the auditory cortex. While the effects may dissipate along with your hangover, the effects to your brain and hearing are permanent. It may not be noticeable today, but as we age the effects become much worse and you may start to notice gaps in what you can hear. While alcohol can damage the brain, it can also create a toxic environment in the blood, which can damage the hair cell of your inner ear.

Protect Your Hearing

The more you smoke and the more you drink, the higher of a risk you put on your hearing. While you may not think your hearing is a big deal, it is one important way that you communicate with others. Untreated hearing loss can lead to chronic depression, loneliness, sleep issues and anxiety, as well as cognitive decline and a higher risk of accidents and falls. 

If you are ready to put your health into your hands you can start by limiting the amount you drink and quitting smoking today. If you do have a hearing loss, while it may be permanent, it is very much treatable. Using hearing aids, you can amplify the sounds around you and help you connect to the people you love. Take an initiative for your health by scheduling a hearing test today!