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Hearing Loss and Sleep

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by exceptional

Sleep is an essential function for our bodies. Aside from letting our bodies rest, it’s a time for the brain to regenerate as well and improve your immune system. When sleep comes easy it almost always feels like a blessing. You wake rested and rejuvenated, ready for whatever the new day brings. However, for those who struggle with sleep it can start a devastating cycle. When you become stressed you won’t get enough rest, that despite exhaustion, it can be difficult to get sleep and get the regenerating and rest you need to calm and heal your nervous system. Getting inadequate sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic health problems. There are several factors which may contribute to issues with sleep including stress, bereavement, unfamiliar sleep environment, jet lag, shift work, or a poor sleeping environment which may include noise, temperature, light or an uncomfortable bed. However, researchers are finding that hearing loss may also be a contributing factor to long nights with broken sleep.

Sleep Issues and Hearing Loss

It may not be an apparent connection at first but studies have shown that those with hearing issues or deafness often struggle with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia. One study found that two-thirds of patients with hearing loss struggle with chronic sleep issues. The reason is not immediately clear but may be caused by psychological distress.

Psychological distress refers to non-specific symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression and unfortunately goes hand in hand with unaddressed hearing issues. When we struggle to hear it makes it hard to follow everyday conversations and this can affect relationships in every aspect of our lives—from home, to work, with friends and out and about. It’s all too common for chronic communication issues to affect the quality and enjoyment day to day. At home, your home life can be affected, which in turn can affect your relationship with friends, and performance at work. At work, communication issues can affect your performance and subsequently your earnings—leading to a blow to self-esteem and self-worth. Depression is often a major factor in insomnia and other sleep issues, perhaps being one of the reasons that so many with untreated hearing issues also struggle with sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Hearing Loss

 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your breathing is interrupted during sleep, for longer than 10 seconds at least 5 times per hour (on average) throughout the night. Aside from interrupting sleep and contributing to insomnia, the more severe the obstructive sleep apnea, the greater the risk of serious health risks including coronary artery disease, heart attacks, heart failure and strokes. Sudden and frequent drops in blood oxygen levels when breathing is interrupted, during obstructive sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Studies suggest that obstructive sleep apnea may also affect instances of hearing loss. The most common theory as to the relation between the two conditions is that when oxygen is interrupted it affects blood flow throughout the body, including the inner ear. We hear with our ears, but we can’t receive the sounds unless they are sent to the brain. Our ears achieve this via tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia at the end of the ear canal. These cells are very fragile and subject to damage when they cannot receive an ample supply of oxygenated blood. Over time, with unregulated obstructive sleep apnea, it’s likely that these cells can sustain damage which can cause irreversible hearing loss.

Can Hearing Aids Help You Sleep?

While there is no cure for hearing loss, it can be treated using hearing aids. These tiny devices rest in or near the ear canal to amplify the sounds you struggle with, based on your latest hearing exam. Hearing aids can’t directly help you sleep – in fact you have to take them out at the end of the night. However, because the daily stress and subsequent depression of untreated hearing loss can affect sleep, addressing the issue can be just what you need to reverse these symptoms. When you commit to wearing your hearing aids daily, you have a chance to not only sleep better at night, but decrease depression and improve connectivity. Don’t “sleep on it” another day! Contact us to find out what hearing aids can do for you!