How Alcohol Turns Up the Volume: The Science Behind Loud Drunks

“Why do people who drink think those of us who don’t are hard of hearing?” I asked no one in particular as I stood in my living room.

I’m not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV, so if you’re reading this article thinking it will be filled with the results of a new study on drinking and deafness, stop reading right now.

What follows is based on my not-so-scientific realization that since I started my sobriety journey four years ago, my hearing has improved.

It’s a benefit of giving up alcohol that no one talks about.

Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I hosted a small dinner party at our home with four other friends, two of which were spending the weekend with us.

I like houseguests about as much as a cat likes water. But unlike the dozens of people who have stayed at our home throughout the years, these two respect that they are guests in someone else’s home. They clean up after themselves, and they know the meaning of boundaries. However, they do love their whiskey and wine. So, there’s that.

At one point during the evening, I stepped outside to check on the status of the sunset. Our home faces west toward the Florida Everglades, and the sunsets from our back porch are epic.

I was gone for less than a minute, enveloped by the stillness of the evening. When I stepped back inside, my startled eardrums threatened to leave my head and jump into the lake behind the house. Being eaten by an alligator seemed safer to them than being exposed to the cacophony of voices so loud the decibel warning on my Apple watch flashed a message that read: “You’re on your own, now. Vaya con Dios.”

It’s as if I had crossed from the land of Only Dogs Can Hear This Sound into a galaxy of noises so loud they put the Krakatoa volcanic eruption 0f 1883 to shame. At 310 decibels, that eruption is said to be the loudest sound ever recorded. It was heard 3,000 miles away in Australia.

I was certain that halfway around the world, the citizens of Sydney were sobbing from the level of loudness inside my home.

I’m Sober, Not Deaf!

“Why do people who drink think those of us who don’t are hard of hearing?” I asked no one in particular as I stood in my living room.

“Because they are!” came back a reply, followed by an equally loud cackle of laughter that would have been the envy of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Now mind you, our guests were not drunk. At least not in the sloppy, falling down, l could smell the “perfume” coming from their pores drunk.

But they were “happy” enough to speak in ludicrously lively loudness levels.

I was tempted to speak more or forever hold my peace. But I knew better. I let them have their fun while I fantasized about the looks on their faces the following morning … or afternoon. Because the next morning for them would begin around noon.

The Morning After

As I arose at dawn the following day to prepare for a bike ride while everyone slept off the previous night’s festivities, my partner woke up long enough to tell me, “Be quiet! Our guests are sleeping! Don’t slam doors! Don’t use the microwave! Don’t even think of breathing while you’re still in the house!” (Maybe I exaggerate a little … but not that little.)

Somewhere between our guest’s last shot of 18-year Macallen and their middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom, dust sweeping across the marble floor became loud enough to rise the dead from their eternal slumber. And since our guests were hopefully still alive, even a bird feather landing on our roof would be enough to wake them.

Have I told you how much I love houseguests?

So, I walked around gathering my riding attire, holding my breath in bare feet, drinking my now lukewarm coffee because the microwave was banned, and planning my escape route through the quietest door in the house, not quite sure which one that would be.

I couldn’t dress in the gym because it was precariously close to where the sleeping dogs lay. And I couldn’t even think of dressing anywhere in the house where it was “safe” because my nakedness could startle a guest who had decided to check to see what all the “commotion” was about.

Somehow I managed to leave the house without incident.

I came back an hour later to a still, quiet house. I knew it was only a matter of time before the breakfast mimosas were poured, and Krakatoa would erupt once again.

I said a little prayer of thanks for yet another reminder of why I don’t drink.

A reminder that amidst the noise and haste, sobriety is the sweetest sound of all.

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