May 14 2011

In Vino Veritas – loudly


Last night we were having a quiet chat in a restaurant when a large group was shown to another table. They had spent some time beforehand in the bar – as evidenced by the loudness of their conversation – which got louder as the wine was served. A quiet chat no longer being possible, we did the only sensible thing – and ordered another few bottles of wine ourselves. If you can’t beat them, join them.

“Cocktail Party Deafness” is a common cause for medical consultation, but is not necessarily caused by deteriorating hearing with age. Alcohol has an acute effect on our hearing threshold, which was demonstrated in a 2007 study by the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London.

Volunteers had their hearing tested before and after a number of alcoholic drinks. (No, the study report doesn’t say what drink was used) Volunteers kept drinking until their blood alcohol concentration was greater than 0.06%, just above the driving limit. They were excluded from the test if their coordination had become so bad that they could’t work the hearing test machine. (I wonder if they got them to play Donkey Kong to test their level of coordination – which was the standard test at my University).

The experiment demonstrated a very significant impairment of hearing after alcohol, especially in the lower thresholds responsible for speech discrimination.

Therefore, people speak louder after a few drinks because they can’t hear themselves speaking. You may notice they also stand closer to the people they are speaking with so that they can hear them. I wonder if the temporary deafness also affects musical taste. Does it explain Jimmy Barnes?

Previous studies have documented the disinhibitory effects of alcohol.

This disinhibition means that there is an increase in quantity of what is said while under the influence, on top of the increase in volume we have described.

Perhaps we need to do another study to determine if there is a corresponding increase in quality of conversation. In vino veritas – in wine there is truth. Come round next Saturday and we’ll discuss it over a nice red.


What I Learnt On 14th May in other years

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