« Health & Fitness

Alcohol and Hearing Loss

by Susan Fenrich

It may not be a popular subject in Sheboygan but there is considerable evidence that excessive alcohol consumption can be a contributor to temporary and permanent hearing loss. The website at “hear-it” tells us that too much alcohol use can result in damage to the central auditory cortex of the brain and may lead to brain shrinkage. They also say in part:

“People who suffer from alcoholism may also have damage within their ears. The high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream can create a toxic environment which can damage the delicate hair cells in the cochlea. This condition is known as ototoxicity.”

Prolonged excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to permanent hearing loss. But do we have a problem here? In an article dated Oct.19th, 2008 titled “Wasted in Wisconsin” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Wisconsin is No.1 in the country in per capita drinkers, we’re No.1 in binge drinkers and were No.1 in D.U.I. convictions. We outnumber the rest of the country by a three to one margin in the number of taverns per person. And the article goes on to cite the following dubious distinction:

Study the data, read history or talk to tavern-goers. The message comes through clearly: Drinking isn't just something we do to pass time at the ballpark or Summerfest or a Halloween party. It is, for better and worse, an element that helps define Wisconsin as Wisconsin, part of our identity.

It may be part of our identity but apparently it is an identity that, all things considered, comes with a high cost including the very real potential for permanent hearing loss.

Another prime cause of hearing loss is excessive noise which is prevalent in most any club or tavern on a weekend night. Combine the noise with the alcohol and it’s easy to see what kind of risks we are taking with our hearing.