Researchers have been studying the links between sleep apnea and hearing loss. According to one study on approximately 14,000 people, hearing loss was prevalent among those with a greater body mass index, those who snored in their sleep, and/or had a severe form of sleep apnea.
Another study showed that those who had severe disruptive sleep apnea, with the lowest oxygen levels were more prone to have hearing damage.
What is sleep apnea?
There are many forms of sleep apnea, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This form of sleep apnea occurs when the muscles and tissues surrounding an individual’s airway soften and restrict breathing. This results in snoring and repeatedly waking up out of breath.
Symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring, gasping or choking while sleeping, morning headaches, irritability, daytime sleepiness, mood swings, learning or memory problems, and dry throat when waking up in the morning.
How does sleep apnea affect hearing loss?
There are still studies being done to determine whether sleep apnea is a direct cause of hearing loss. There needs to be a healthy amount of blood to flow to the ears in order for them to function properly. Sleep apnea has been proven to decrease blood flow to the ears. Years of snoring loudly could permanently destroy the hair cells in your ears. This can cause sensorineural hearing loss, which is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
Hearing health specialists have been aware that hearing loss can be caused by circulatory problems. Research has shown that people with heart disease are over 50 percent more likely to have hearing loss. The American Diabetes Association claims that patients who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss than those who don’t. Those who smoke are more susceptible to develop hearing loss, because frequently smoking reduces oxygen levels in the inner ear. High blood pressure that goes untreated can contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus.
How can sleep apnea and hearing loss negatively affect relationships?
Bed partners are usually the first to notice if a person has sleep apnea. The snoring can also cause them to lose sleep. The combination of hearing loss and loud snores can result in frustrating moments and poor communication.
What is the relationship between tinnitus and sleep apnea?
Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, can make it difficult for a restful night’s sleep and can cause insomnia. In a Taiwanese case-control study conducted in 2017, they found that the risk of having tinnitus was considerably higher in people who were middle-aged and older, and also suffered from sleep apnea. It is uncertain as to whether one disorder causes the other, or if other influences like genetics or an individual’s daily lifestyle, escalades the possibility of having both disorders.
It is safe to say that treating sleep apnea gives people a better chance to get a good night’s rest. This will help reduce daily fatigue and stress, which is always a great thing for those who suffer from tinnitus.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, consult your family doctor. There is treatment available. If you suffer from tinnitus and/or hearing loss, contact one of our hearing instrument specialists at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation.