(Note: I’ve adapted this blog from my 2016 article, Drinks, Dementia and Hearing Loss. A great title, but as I don’t want to confuse Google, I’ve tacked on a couple of important words.)
For those who have hearing loss and/or chronic tinnitus, news of breakthrough cures or treatments makes our hearts beat faster. Then it becomes: yeah, yeah, tell us another story.
But what if?
How wonderful if one day, preferably before I die, ‘they’ discover something we can swallow or smoke that will actually revive those cranky cochlear hair cells or eliminate the roar of chronic tinnitus?
But if I hold my breath too long on those hopes, I will die. Miracle plant cures in capsule form are spectacularly ineffective for most tinnitus-sufferers, and marijuana can increase our head noise. So, we just have to take the great news as it comes—in bits, slowly, surely. Let’s focus on what we have now, at hand.
Here’s a tasty bit: moderate alcohol intake may be beneficial to your health. A National Institutes of Health-supported “meta-analysis of 143 studies on the effects of alcohol on the brain reports that light to moderate drinking (maximum of 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women) reduces risks for dementia and cognitive decline by 23%”. (More later on how wearing hearing aids can also reduce the chance of dementia.)
I like that study a lot better than this chilling research from Dr. Elisabeth Stephanie Smith, University of Ulm that I referenced in my blog, My Wine My Hearing Loss, the Relationship. In her 2004 study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, she wrote: Chronic, life-long alcohol consumption can shrink your brain and lead to hearing loss, due to impact on central auditory pathways.
Also, apparently alcohol is absorbed into the fluid of the inner ear and stays there, even after it is no longer present in the blood and the brain. That’s why you can’t walk straight after more than a few.
In my blog What Hearing Research Tells Me About Me – read it, it’s fun – I referenced a study published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Resveratrol is a plant compound found in red wine that may protect against noise-induced hearing loss and cognitive decline AND—wait for it—stress levels. I was about to switch to red wine, until I read a Harvard Health article that said I’d have to drink 1000 glasses of red wine to approximate the health benefits that resveratrol showed in mice.
Another hope dashed. I’m a white wine drinker, anyway.
For people who suffer from tinnitus, a bit of alcohol can temporarily lessen the perception of the sounds that ring and roar in our heads. However, when the wine wears off, the tinnitus gleefully continues. Participants on tinnitus forums comment that too much alcohol can make the tinnitus worse the next day. But now that I know that a glass of wine can be beneficial, I’m not going to worry about being considered a lush. Italian children drink more than me!
OK, let’s take the middle road. A modest intake of alcohol is delicious and happy-making and may even be good for us. Obviously, this strategy isn’t an option for those who prefer not to drink, or who have problems with alcohol and substance addiction.
Assistive technology to maximize the hearing system is crucial to addressing the issue of dementia. The stress of hearing loss can be descreased, in part, by openly addressing its emotions—grief, frustration, anger—with the help of hearing professionals and consumer groups, as well as engaging family support.
Then, later, 5pm perhaps, as you’re enjoying all that technology and family support, consider pouring yourself a glass of wine.
Just as alcohol can dull our nerve endings, I’ve learned that I hear less well after too many. In other words, “I can’t hear with beer in my ears.”
I have had two Cochlear Implants for ten years. Every evening at 6 PM I enjoy a very healthy sized vodka. On my next birthday I will be 90.