A Link Between Stress and Hearing Loss

Dr. David DekriekHealth, hearing health, hearing loss, Mental Health, News, research

A Link Between Stress and Hearing Loss

If you feel as though you are stressed out more often than you should be, you are not alone. Stress has become an increasingly prevalent issue in today’s society. The American Psychological Association has even begun to recognize chronic stress as a national public health crisis (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx). According to a study by the association, about 44% of Americans surveyed reported that their stress levels have risen over the past five years.

Reducing stress has a positive impact on our lives and our health in a plethora of ways. Not the least of which is our hearing health. In fact, chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk for hearing loss in adults.

Good Stress Versus Bad Stress

Stress is most often associated with negative connotations; however, it actually plays an extremely important role in our lives and our safety. Stress is responsible for our “fight or flight” modes. It is stress that triggers us with the extra energy and adrenaline we need to either escape from a dangerous situation or stand our ground. Other types of “good stress” – called eustress is that energized and nervous feeling we get when interviewing for a job we really want or when riding a rollercoaster. This type of stress keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

Stress becomes “bad stress” – or chronic stress – when it occurs frequently and/or interferes with our ability to fully enjoy life. Some of the most common triggers of chronic stress are financial crises, unhappy home lives, demanding jobs, and a poor work/life balance. Long-term stress can harm your health. Stress can negatively affect our sleep and our immune, reproductive, and digestive systems. It can also increase irritability, anger and sadness. Chronic stress that becomes routine even has even been known to contribute to serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Stress and Hearing Loss

In order for us to hear, we require healthy blood flow to our delicate and complex auditory system. Tiny hair-like cells in our inner ear are imperative to our ability to hear because they are responsible for transmitting sound vibrations into electrical signals that our brain can process and understand. Proper blood flow is essential to the functioning of these delicate cells. Without appropriate blood flow and circulation, these delicate cells become damaged or die and once they are gone, these cells do not regenerate.

Unfortunately, chronic stress diverts oxygen from our circulatory system which restricts blood flow. The overproduction of adrenaline can even completely stop blood flow to our ears. When blood is restricted over a prolonged period of time, the little hair cells lack the nutrients they need to function and this affects our entire auditory system and ultimately, our hearing.

Managing Stress

If we had to guess, we would assume that each one of us would benefit from less stress in our lives. While there are hundreds if not thousands of individual methods to deal with daily stressors, it is imperative to try a few solutions until you find one that works for you. We’ve outlined some stress management techniques that have also been shown to have a positive outcome for your hearing health.

  1. Regular Exercise. Exercising on a consistent basis is beneficial for almost every area of your life imaginable, and this includes your stress levels and hearing health. Regular exercise allows us an outlet to release stress and also increases blood flow to our auditory systems and inner ear hair cells.
  2. Meditate. Meditation has existed for thousands of years across cultures. It is a practice that helps us to clear our minds and give our brains and subconscious an opportunity to just “be”. Meditation has also been found to be an effective strategy for management of tinnitus.
  3. Get a Hearing Screen. Did you know that untreated hearing loss can negatively affect our relationships at home, earning potential at work, personal safety and even our cognitive ability? Issues with any one of these effects of untreated hearing loss could be a cause of significant stress. Stress and hearing loss are a bit of a “chicken or the egg situation” where stress can contribute to hearing loss and untreated hearing loss can cause stress.

To schedule a hearing consultation, contact us at Fidelity Hearing today. We provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.