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March 15, 2004

Binge boozing can turn you deaf!

From: - India - Mar 15, 2004

Germany | March 15, 2004 4:20:55 PM IST

In a new study, German scientists have revealed that life-long alcohol consumption can inflict on central auditory pathways, which is reflected as hearing loss. The study uses brain currents called brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs) to examine the effects that cumulative, life- long alcohol consumption may have on hearing.

"The main problem with identifying alcohol-related brain damage has been to identify those lesions caused by alcohol itself versus those caused by other common alcohol-related factors, such as thiamin deficiency," said Elisabeth Stephanie Smith, a member of the ENT Clinic at the University of Ulm, Germany.

She quoted the example of some alcoholics who lose white matter, which can lead to overall brain shrinkage and may be partially reversible.

Alcohol-related damage has also been noted in specific regions of the cerebral cortex hypothalamus and cerebellum, and possibly in the hippocampus, amygdala and locus ceruleus, she added.

For this study, researchers recruited two groups of males from the University of Ulm: 19 head and neck tumour patients, representative of heavy drinkers according to previous research; and 19 age and nicotine-matched plastic-surgery patients, representative of social drinkers according to previous research. All participants were given a standardized questionnaire regarding alcohol use, blood tests, and a hearing examination. Recordings and evaluation of brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs) were used to measure brain damage in the subjects.

The results indicate that cumulative life-long alcohol consumption affects BAEP latencies, which reflect damage to central auditory pathways, which means hearing loss. "Not only does chronic alcohol consumption cause the already mentioned brain shrinkage, but it also leads to defects of the central auditory tracks, which causes delays in neurotransmission time. These defects cannot be detected by commonly used listening tests for hearing performance," said Smith.

Interestingly, the study also found that the BAEP latencies of social drinkers appear to be significantly more sensitive to the increase of cumulative life-long alcohol consumption than do those of moderate and heavy drinkers. (ANI)

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