2016 and the Cheeseburger in Paradise

As we begin another new year at Hearing International it is fitting to wish all that come here a Happy New Year in their own language (Click here for greetings in 40 languages).  The New Year means different things in the many cultures and it is celebrated ny161differently in various parts of the world.  In Western culture, people stay up late to ring the old year out and bring the new year in.

In most places around the world, however, church bells ring, horns toot, whistles blow, sirens shriek. London’s Trafalgar Square and New York City’s Times Square swarm with crowds of happy, noisy people. The excitement and promise of a fresh new year expresses people’s high spirits at holiday time.  To some it’s a chance for a new start, for others it’s a time of renewal or to look forward to new events in the coming year, and for many it’s simply a new chance for a better cheeseburger in paradise.  Whatever the motivation for euphoria this time of the year, there is great expectation, lots of alcohol and noise, two culprits that can lead to significant hearing impairment.


Studies suggest that a high alcohol intake over a long period of time can result in damage to the brain’s central auditory cortex, which may also lead to ny164brain shrinkage. This cumulative damage, sometimes even from moderate drinking over a long period of time, causes damage to the auditory pathways and may risk damage that results in hearing loss.
In 2004 a famous BAEP (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potentials) study of both heavy and social drinkers evaluated the level of damage caused to the part of the brain associated with hearing ability. Results demonstrated that drinking does have an effect on hearing ability.  The results led researchers to suggest that since drinking, particularly in excess, can result in brain damage, the ears may still function normally although the brain is no longer able to process the sounds. The result of high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream may also cause ototoxicity and may damage the delicate hair cells in the cochlea. In this often-cited study as well as subsequent studies, older participants and those with a previous history of heavy drinking showed the mosteffect on hearing.


The correlation between noise and hearing loss is well documented.  National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2015) indicates that when ny165exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, hearing loss occurs slowly over a long period of time.  Since the damage from noise exposure is gradual, patients do not notice it until the loss becomes rather severe.  Over time, sounds may become distorted or muffled, and you might find it difficult to understand other people when they talk.  Damage from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) combined with aging can lead to hearing loss severe enough that  hearing aids are necessary to magnify the sounds and assist in hearing, communication, and participate more fully in daily activities.

Alcohol and Noise Combined

The knowledge that noise can cause hearing loss and that alcohol can cause hearing loss should make it obvious that the combined effects can be devastating over time. Researchers from the University of London investigated whether alcohol alone or in combination with noise could cause hearing loss. Researchers found that subjects’ ability to hear at the lower frequencies was diminished over time. This phenomenon may account for the “Cocktail Effect” and why in bars the more people drink, the less they are able to understand one another, so people keep raising their voices. While cocktail party effect hearing loss is usually temporary, researchers caution that permanent hearing damage with regular noise exposure and heavy consumption is a real possibility.  The effects of these two conditions, however require further study.

So….What does this mean?

On New Year’s, as you make your way through the evening on your way to discoveringny16 that new start, renewal or the elusive cheeseburger in paradise……watch how much noise there is in your environment and reduce the amounts of alcohol as both of these issues together might, in the  long run,  make some difference in your hearing.


Smith, E. & Riechelmann, H. (2004).  Cumulative Lifelong Alcohol Consumption Alters Auditory Brainstem Potentials.  Volume 28(3). pp 508-515. Retrieved December 28, 2015.

Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (2015).    New Years Greetings.  Retrieved December 28, 2015.


Happy New Year 2016.  ihappynewyearwishes.org.  Retrieved December 28, 2015

Ginny (2015).  Champagne glasses image.  Retrieved December 28, 2015.

Yelp (2015).  449 photos of Cheesburger in Paradise.  Retrieved December 28, 2015


Buffet, J.(2009).  Cheeseburger in Paradise. You Tube.com  Retrieved December 28, 2015.


About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.