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Stress, Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Linked

According to the World Health Organization, hearing loss will become one of the most common disabilities in the near future.  To find out why hearing loss is on the rise, researchers have begun studying what factors contribute to deteriorating hearing abilities.  What they found might surprise you.

Hearing Health around the World

In many industrialized countries, cases of hearing loss are alarmingly on the rise.  With so many different ways to access health care in developed nations, it is shocking to see something as simple as the ability to hear affected so negatively.  In some countries, hearing difficulties are reported in over 30% of its citizens.  The most common complaints that citizens report are ringing in the ears and loss of hearing.

Connecting Stress and Hearing Loss

stress and hearing lossHaving seen that there was such a large number of people reporting hearing loss and tinnitus, researchers began looking for reasons why this trend was occurring.  One scientific idea was that since stress is also reported more often in developed countries, perhaps hearing loss could be correlated with this finding.  To find a link between the two, scientists set out to explore the possibility that stress can lead to hearing loss and ringing in the ears. 


Studying Hearing Health

Finding a proven link between hearing and stress required thousands of surveys to be distributed to patients.  The research was conducted in Sweden by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.  Researchers developed a questionnaire asking survey participants 120 questions about how they would report certain stressors.  These stressors included the following life situations:

  • Psychosocial Work Environment
  • Physical Work Environment
  • Lifestyle
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health

In addition to questions about work and home lifestyle stressors, respondents were also asked three questions regarding their hearing health.  These three questions focused on tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and the ability to hear normal conversations.

Hearing Loss Study Results

A linear relationship exists between certain stressors and hearing health.  What this means is that those respondents that reported more stress, especially in the areas of poor sleep and ill health, also had more complaints of tinnitus and hearing loss.  Men and women both showed similar results, and when considering health status, both men and women reported that hearing loss seemed worse when they perceived their health status to be low. 

Workplace stress was also correlated with hearing health.  The more stressed respondents reported that they feel from work, the more they also complained of hearing loss and tinnitus.  It is well known that stress leads to health problems, such as a decreased ability to fight off infections and increases in the chance of developing heart conditions, but it was not until this study was published that there was a clear association with hearing and stress.

hearing lossIs Stress Affecting my Hearing Ability?

After reading this report, you may be wondering if your own lifestyle is affecting the quality of your hearing health.  The best way to assess your hearing ability is to visit a licensed audiologist or hearing aid specialist for a hearing exam.  Once there, you should let your provider know of your hearing concerns and discuss ways to decrease stress in your daily life.  You may find that steps taken to improve your lifestyle may also improve your hearing.  To find an ear doctor, hearing center, or hearing aid store, visit our find a professional section.

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