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How Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day Impacts your Hearing and Voice Health

Top O The Mornin’ To Ya!

Isn’t everyone Irish on St. Patrick’s Day?! Do we even know what St. Patrick’s Day commemorates? St. Patrick’s Day actually observes the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It began as a religious feast day in the 17th century, but has now evolved into a variety of festivals internationally which celebrate Irish culture in various ways: parades, special foods, music, dancing, lots of green everything and, of course, a whole lot of imbibing. It has become a fun, joyous day where everybody gets together to engage in these celebrations.

But did you know that some of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations can affect your hearing? Did you know that it can affect your voice too? Here are some things to remember while you’re engaging in your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations:

  1. Alcohol is drying to the voice. Intersperse your alcoholic beverages with water to make sure that you are getting hydrated enough.
  2. When we are happy and excited we just want to scream and shout out loud! But doing so can cause some vocal hoarseness. We want to avoid that, so make sure that you’re not screaming too loudly
  3. Some classic foods we eat to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day can cause reflux, which can lead to vocal hoarseness. Other foods can exacerbate tinnitus because of the salty nature of the item. Some of the offending foods consist of: corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and fried irish cabbage with bacon, to name a few.  Delicious, but be ready for some repercussions!
  4. High alcohol consumption over a long period of time can lead to negative changes in the brains auditory cortex. Even moderate drinkers may be at risk for nerve damage. This nerve damage can lead to hearing loss.
  5. Alcohol intake over a long period of time can lead to auditory processing issues, because of the impact that it has on the function of the auditory cortex.
  6. Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day assumes short term alcohol consumption. High levels of alcohol in the bloodstream at any one time can be a toxic environment for the hearing system, resulting in permanent damage to the hair cells of the cochlea.
  7. Even mild levels of alcohol in the bloodstream reduce our sensitivity to loudness of sounds. This means that we won’t realize a sound is too loud if we have alcohol in our system. This places us at a greater risk for acute noise induced hearing loss, or an acute case of tinnitus. Too much of this type of exposure can cause permanent shifts in hearing thresholds and constant tinnitus.

Heavy prices to pay for celebrating!  But here are a few tips to make it a little less problematic:

  1. Make sure you are fully hydrated with water before, during and after you celebrate. This will reduced the negative impact that alcohol and some of the more salty foods will have on your system.
  2. Limit your intake of caffeine and salt before or after you celebrate – and even for a few days before and after. Since everything is cumulative, this will limit the overall effects.
  3. Try not to eat any celebratory foods within 3 hours of going to sleep – reducing the possibility of having reflux while you are sleeping
  4. Wear earplugs when you are out in heavily populated places! First, wearing earplugs will protect you from high levels of noise to which you may not realize you are exposed. Second, if you wear earplugs – you hear yourself louder, and therefore will not talk or shout out as loud. This will save your voice.
  5. Get a good night’s rest! Have fun, but remember to go to sleep relatively early so that your body can repair itself. Drink a full glass of water before going to sleep!

May the Luck of the Irish Be With You!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig dhuit! – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Written by New York Speech and Hearing

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