Excessive drinking damages the auditory cortex in the brain, affecting the way your brain processes sound. The auditory nerve is responsible for transferring the auditory information from the sounds we hear in the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain where they are translated. So, even though the ears may be functioning properly, the brain may be unable to correctly process the sounds.

study by German researchers at the University of Ulm discovered that excessive drinking over a long period of time damages the central auditory cortex, increasing the time it takes to process sound. That means you might have trouble hearing people who speak quickly, or distinguishing one voice or sound from another in environments where there is a lot of background noise.

Excessive drinking causes a toxic environment in the inner ear. The inner ear houses tiny hair cells responsible for translating the sounds your ears collect into electronic impulses.  These impulses are then sent along the auditory nerve to the brain. The toxicity created in the inner ear by excessive alcohol damages and destroys the hair cells, and they do not regenerate. As this damage is permanent, so too is the resulting hearing loss.

study of young adults in London revealed that heavy drinking leads to problems understanding lower frequency sounds. This condition is also known appropriately as “cocktail deafness.” Although hearing returned to normal among study participants once they stopped drinking, researchers theorize that frequent episodes of alcohol-induced hearing loss may lead to permanent damage.


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