Hearing management

31 December 2018

How champagne could lead to hearing loss this New Year

Keep your ears (and hearing) safe at this New Year's eve party.

Fireworks, loud music, countdowns and champagne are all part of saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming in the new. All these festivities can be exciting and entertaining but some, however, can cause strain on your ears.

Popping champagne bottles and allowing the festive bubbles to flow has become a tradition at New Year’s Eve parties. While this may be fun for some, champagne corks flying through the air can be pretty dangerous.

High impact

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), a regular bottle of champagne can contain more air pressure than that of a car tyre. Another study found that a champagne cork can travel at speeds of up to 40km/hr. 

When an object travelling that fast connects with your ear, it may cause some serious damage. According to Dr Andrew Iwach, a San Francisco ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the AAO, "Because these corks, when they're flying out of the champagne bottle, carry so much energy they typically will cause a shockwave that can lead to a haemorrhage, disruption of tissues, a cataract, even retinal damage."

If the cork hits your ear, this impact could rupture your eardrum, which can result in bleeding or even significant loss of hearing. 

According to a previous Health24 article, you are at risk of suffering from a burst eardrum if you get hit on the ear, sustain any injuries playing sports, fall on your ear or suffer injury as a result of a car accident. Any trauma to the ear or head can cause an eardrum to rupture.

Dr Anna Hall, a GP practicing in Cape Town, told Health24, “A burst eardrum is suspected when there is a discharge of fluid, blood or pus from the ear, or sudden hearing loss associated with head trauma."

Although it's a fairly uncommon condition, it will require immediate attention and referral to an ENT. "If you suspect a burst eardrum, don’t put any drops into your ear and consult a doctor immediately for help,” says Dr Hall. 

Safety first

Make sure you start your new year off right and with your hearing still intact – here's how to open a champagne bottle safely to avoid injury:

  • Make you sure you’ve chilled the champagne at about 4°-7° Celsius before opening. A warm cork is more likely to pop unexpectedly, which can cause damage. Don't shake the bottle as this will increase the speed at which the cork flies out.
  • When you pop the cork, make sure the bottle top is not pointed at anyone.
  • Place a cloth over the cork when trying to remove it to prevent it from shooting into the air.
  • When opening the bottle, firmly grasp the cork and gently twist it. This way the pressure is released steadily and not all at once.  

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Minette Lister graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Pathology (Audiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville in 2015. Thereafter, she completed her compulsory year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre in Durban. In 2017, Minette started working for Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. She is passionate about working with children and adults to diagnose and manage hearing loss using state of the art technology. Minette offers hearing screening programmes for newborn and high-risk babies, as well as school-aged children, in order to decrease the incidence of late or unidentified hearing loss.

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