The Connection Between Stress and Hearing Loss

In Health, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Causes, Research by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

While we all probably wish we could live a life free from stress, it actually plays a very important role in the survival of most species, including humans. When necessary, stress actually has the potential to save our lives. In an intense situation, stress is what gives us that extra energy to escape or increases our adrenaline in order to help us defend ourselves. This is typically called the “fight or flight” response and it is as vital for human survival today as it was for the earliest humans.

While stress definitely has a place in our lives, it starts to become a problem when it happens daily. No matter what is worrying you, be it financial, family-related or work-related, chronic stress can really take its toll, both physically and emotionally.

Long-Term Stress is Harmful to Your Health

Some stress is good, like when it saves our lives, or helps us stay motivated to perform for an interview. Stress gets dangerous when it becomes long-term, meaning it is constant or the stress continues after the situation is no longer dangerous. Long-term stress is hazardous for your health in multiple ways. Chronic stress can cause issues with your digestive, reproductive, and immune systems, and can also interfere with sleep. Chronic stress can cause these systems to stop working properly which may cause a myriad of symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and sleeplessness.

Long-term stress can also cause more serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml).

Stress and Hearing Loss

To understand how stress is connected to hearing loss, it is important to first understand how hearing works.

In order to properly hear, noise enters our ear canal and causes our ear drums and three tiny little bones to vibrate. These vibrations then cause a fluid located in the inner ear – or cochlea – to vibrate as well. Tiny and delicate little hair-like cells then essentially “ride the waves” of these vibrations, and in doing so they bend and sway. The movement of the hair cells turns the vibrations into electric signals that are sent to the brain for processing. Only when the brain receives these signals do we perceive and interpret sounds. In order for this process to work, a strong and healthy circulation system in necessary. Without strong blood flow to the tiny little vessels in our ears, the delicate little hair cells start to become damaged or even die. Once the cells are damaged, they are gone forever, thus causing hearing loss. Hearing loss of this type is the most common type of hearing impairment and is called sensorineural.

Stress has the ability to cause all sorts of issues with circulation, including heart disease and low blood pressure. When stress interferes with this system, it also interferes with our hearing.

How to Lower Stress Levels

There are some very simple and easy practices we can implement in our daily routines that will help to reduce stress.

Get Moving – We all know that there are hundreds of great health benefits of daily exercise. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends at least 30 minutes a day of walking or other light exercise to help relieve stress.

Learn to Say No – There are only so many hours in the day, so it is imperative we learn to prioritize the most important tasks and complete them first. Less meaningful tasks can wait until a later time. Learn to say no to the duties that will put you into overload and at the end of each day, focus on the tasks you have accomplished instead of the ones left to do.

Talk to Friends and Family – When we begin to feel overly stressed, it is important we take the time to talk about it with our friends and family. Do not try to deal with stress all on your own. Sometimes, simply speaking about your stressors can help to relive them.

What to Do if Stress is Taking Over

If you feel overwhelmed and like stress is overtaking your life, it may be time to reach out to your healthcare provider. It is important to talk with a professional if your stress has reached an unbearable level. For resources and assistance in finding a mental health provider visit: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml.

Have you noticed changes in your hearing abilities? Are you concerned that you may be experiencing a hearing loss? Contact us at Exceptional Hear Care for a consultation and hearing exam. Our team is here to support you on the journey to better hearing.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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