When you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea you should also schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. Although this is something researchers are still looking into there does seem to be a relationship between the two – something that’s been discovered by several recent studies.
Understanding What Sleep Apnea Is
Although several types do exist, the most common is known as obstructive (OSA). It occurs because the muscles around your airway have relaxed so much that they’re now blocking your breathing. When this happens you’ll snore until you wake up gasping or choking and feeling out of breath. This may leave you feeling sleepy and irritable throughout the day. It also places a strain on your heart which then increases your likelihood of developing heart disease. Research also suggests that it also increases the likelihood you’ll develop hearing loss.
Why Hearing Loss Occurs
Nobody knows if there’s a direct connection here. However, doctors have seen how sleep apnea does reduce the blood flow to your ears – something that they need plenty of in order to be able to work correctly. Research also suggests that years of snoring damages the sensitive hair cells within your ears frequently resulting in the most common type of hearing loss: sensorineural.
For quite some time now professionals who specialize in hearing loss have known that circulatory issues lie at the heart of their patient’s problems. This is something that’s been backed with research that shows that people who suffer from heart disease are 50% more likely to also suffer from some form of hearing loss. In fact, the American Diabetes Association has said that their patients are twice as likely to suffer from some form of a hearing issue. This is also true for smokers because the oxygen level in their inner ear is depleted. Another important risk factor that can’t be overlooked is high blood pressure.
Not only do both hearing loss and sleep apnea increase your likelihood of developing other health disorders but they can also have a negative impact on your relationships. This is especially true if you happen to be sharing a bed with someone. Your partner will probably be the first to realize that you have an issue with your sleep because your snoring and restlessness will result in them losing a lot of sleep too. If you’re also having problems with your hearing this can result in frustration and poor communication.
Tinnitus (a.k.a. ringing in your ears) makes it more difficult to sleep and can even result in insomnia. However, there hasn’t been a lot of research conducted regarding its relation to sleep apnea except for a 2017 study that was done in Taiwan. According to this study, middle-aged and older adults were more likely to develop tinnitus if they suffered from OSA. What the study failed to determine if one caused the other or if there were other factors (e.g. genetics, lifestyle choices) that increased a person’s risk factors overall. The one thing doctors were able to determine was that treatment will help you get a good night’s sleep so you’re less likely to feel stressed which is a good thing for your health overall.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea. They may suggest lifestyle changes (e.g. weight loss, smoking cessation, use of a CPAP machine, an oral breathing device, medication, surgery). You’ll also want to have a hearing professional at Countryside Hearing Aid Services in Clearwater and Pinellas County check your hearing. If necessary, they can provide you with hearing aids so you’ll be able to hear better.
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