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 differently 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.
The correlation between noise and hearing loss is well documented. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2015) indicates that when exposed 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 discovering 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.