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Excessive drinking at festivals may increase hearing loss risk

Thursday 26th April 2018
Drinking at music festivals could result in risky behaviour that inadvertently leads to hearing loss, researchers have discovered. Image: m-gucci via iStock
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People who consume alcohol at music festivals could be more likely to sustain hearing loss as a result of the loud music than those who abstain from drinking, according to a new study.
 
Researchers in the Netherlands examined data from 18 male and 33 female attendees with an average age of 27 who went to a 4.5-hour outdoor music festival in Amsterdam in September 2015.
 
Each person was given a questionnaire to fill in before and after the event, while 25 people were asked to wear earplugs.
 
Attendees were asked about their behaviour at the festival, their hearing and any episodes of tinnitus after the event had concluded.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, failure to use earplugs was the biggest cause of temporary hearing loss recorded by the researchers, with unprotected participants reporting significantly worse problems than those who did wear them.
 
However, the study also discovered that men who consumed alcohol or drugs were more likely to report episodes of hearing loss.
 
The researchers found that males under the influence of these substances were less inclined to wear their earplugs, but also tended to spend more time in close proximity to loudspeakers where their hearing may be damaged.
 
This was potentially due to a lower perception of the risks associated with this behaviour, or the decision to ignore them in pursuit of greater enjoyment.
 
Writing in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, lead study author Dr Veronique Kraaijenga said little is known about the hearing loss-related behaviour of music festival attendees or whether the hearing loss recorded here is temporary or not.
 
"Physicians should consider these factors to raise awareness about the combined risk of attending music festivals without using earplugs while consuming alcohol or drugs," she added.
 
According to UK Music, attendance at live gigs and festivals in the UK reached 30.9 million in 2016, growth of 12 per cent on the previous year.
 
Interestingly, this is not the first time that drinking has been associated with hearing loss. A previous study from the University of Ulm in Germany discovered that high alcohol consumption over a long period of time can result in central auditory cortex damage in the brain.
 
Although the ears are still working properly, the brain is no longer able to process the sounds in these cases and the person loses their hearing.

Written by James Puckle

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