Hearing Loss and Sleep

Hearing Loss and Sleep

In hearing health, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Quality sleep is necessary for the body to rest and replenish for the next day. Restful sleep provides the time and space for the body to recoup and have the energy to healthily sustain.  

According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night but over 35% of people receive less than this amount. This produces effects that most people are familiar with: fatigue, irritability, reduced ability to concentrate, etc. Chronically experiencing lack of sleep can lead to sleep disorders which are characterized by the difficulty of initiating and/or maintaining sleep. This can contribute to serious health outcomes including the development of hearing loss. 

Common Sleep Disorders

According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million adults live with a sleep disorder. Two of the most common sleep disorders are: 

  • Insomnia: the most common type, insomnia refers to the inability of falling and remaining asleep. Insomnia can be experienced seldomly or chronically, lasting several months at a time. 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 describes irregular breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses (for a super short period of time) multiple times throughout sleep, impacting the flow of oxygen throughout the body. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common type that is caused by a collapsing of tissue in the back of the throat.  

These and other sleep disorders can also be caused by underlying medical conditions that can also adversely impact hearing health. 

Link Between Sleep Disorders and Hearing Loss 

There is growing research that examines the link between sleep disorders and hearing loss. One significant study includes one conducted specifically on sleep apnea. Published in 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers analyzed data from 14,000 participants and found that people with sleep apnea were 30% more likely to also experience hearing loss. This significant finding highlights a major correlation between both conditions. How specifically does sleep, or lack of sleep, impact hearing health?

A wide range of factors can cause sleep disorders. Sleep apnea can develop as a result of different conditions including: high blood pressure, stress, and obesity. These medical conditions can produce inflammation which affects adequate blood flow throughout the body. This includes the blood flow in the inner ear which comprises thousands of hair cells, fluid, and auditory pathways. These components of the auditory system help translate incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to further process and assign meaning to the sound which allows us to understand what we hear. When blood flow to these areas are restricted, it can disrupt this process. This reduces the capacity to process and understand sound, resulting in permanent hearing loss. 

Tips for Better Sleep

There are tips you can integrate to reshape your sleep habits and improve the quality of sleep you receive on a daily basis. A few useful tips include the following: 

  • Establish a Sleep Routine: sleeping and waking up at the same times each day can help facilitate more restful sleep. Create a nighttime routine to help initiate sleep. 
  • Create Comfortable Conditions: create the most comfortable conditions for quality sleep. This includes ensuring comfortable bedding, taking a warm shower, adjusting lighting, etc. 
  • Avoid Screens Before Bed: you should avoid looking at screens and using electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to sleeping.
  • Increase Physical Activity: exercising – even taking walks – is a great way to boost energy and process stress which can enhance sleep.
  • Use Sleep Accessories: like eye masks, earplugs, blackout curtains, etc. These types of accessories reduce light and sound exposure which can be distracting from sleep.

In addition to practicing these tips for better sleep, it is important to have your hearing assessed. Early intervention in changes to hearing allows people to transition into better hearing health with greater ease. Hearing tests are conducted by our team and involve a painless process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. Establishing your hearing needs is a major aspect of prioritizing your hearing health and wellness!