Quality sleep is essential for health and wellness. Adequate sleep allows our bodies to replenish, providing the energy needed throughout the day. According to the Sleep Foundation: though adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, over 35% of people receive less than this amount. We are familiar with the immediate consequences of lack of sleep: fatigue, inability to focus, irritable, sluggish etc. But did you know that lack of sleep can also impact hearing health? Sleep disorders characterized by poor quality of sleep increase the risk of hearing loss which in turn can worsen sleep. This unpleasant cycle can have a wide range of effects on health that makes it challenging to navigate daily life with ease.
Common Sleep Disorders
The American Sleep Association, estimates that 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. have a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders refer to the difficulty of initiating and/or maintaining sleep. Two of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia and sleep apnea.
- Insomnia: is the most pervasive sleep disorder that people experience. Insomnia describes the difficulty of falling and staying asleep. Insomnia can be experienced on a short- or long-term basis (as well as intermittently). Acute insomnia can last just one day while chronic insomnia can be ongoing for months. 10%-30% of adults have chronic insomnia. Common causes of insomnia include stress, anxiety, poor sleep habits, physical ailments etc.
- Sleep Apnea: another common sleep disorder, sleep apnea is when breathing recurring pauses during sleep which impacts how much oxygen the body is receiving. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common type and results from tissue in the back of the throat collapsing. This restricts the airways, producing the symptoms associated with sleep apnea.
Insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders can also be connected to underlying medical conditions which impact hearing health.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Sleep Disorders
Growing research investigates the relationship between hearing loss and sleep disorders. Various studies show a link between both health issues including a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Researchers in this study evaluated data from 14,000 participants and found that people with sleep apnea were 30% more likely to also have hearing loss. This correlation highlights the potential impact of a sleep disorder on hearing but how exactly can sleep affect hearing health?
Various factors can contribute to the development of sleep disorders. Sleep apnea specifically, can be triggered by high blood pressure, stress, and obesity. These conditions can cause inflammation, impacting blood flow throughout the body. If blood vessels are restricted, that oxygen and blood flow is also challenged. This can impact adequate blood flow in the inner ear which is integral to how we hear. The inner ear is composed of the cochlea – filled with thousands of hair cells and fluid – and auditory pathways that lead to the brain. Hair cells help convert soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain (via auditory pathways). The brain is then able to further process these signals and assign meaning which enables us to understand what we hear. Healthy blood flow is needed for these components to perform their critical functions. When it is restricted, this process is disrupted, resulting in hearing loss.
Addressing Hearing Loss
Though hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition that people navigate today, it is also incredibly underdiagnosed. This is partly because it happens gradually so it can take quite some time for people to notice changes to their hearing. Also, it can be difficult to acknowledge that your hearing health is in fact changing. So it is important to regularly have your hearing assessed!
Hearing tests involve a painless and relatively quick process that measures your hearing ability in both ears. This establishes any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you could be experiencing. Fortunately, there are effective ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that support hearing.
Hearing aids are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound; significantly increasing hearing capacity which not only improves communication, but also enhances the quality of your health!
If you are ready to experience the benefits of hearing treatment contact us today! We look forward to serving you.