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Don't Stress About Hearing Loss, Educate Yourself

April is National Stress Awareness month and a good time to take a look at how you handle challenges in your life. The national, cooperative effort was created 13 years ago by The Health Resource Network to increase public awareness about the causes of this modern health epidemic and ways to reduce it. The organization also sponsors National Stress Awareness Day on April 16, intentionally the day after taxes are due.

stress, hearing loss causes, tinnitus, headachesAccording to the American Psychological Association, 77 percent of Americans report regularly experiencing physical symptoms caused by stress, 33 percent say they are living with high stress, and 76 percent cited money and work as the major cause for their stress. Although working under a small amount of pressure is good for us -- think getting to work on time or being fiscally responsible -- too much can cause a myriad of health problems, including those with your hearing health.

Scientists believe constant worry elevates levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increases blood pressure. When you are always anxious, you may also overeat, forego exercising regularly and take up bad habits like smoking. That leads to health problems such as obesity and circulatory-related conditions like hypertension and heart disease.  Because your ears are organs that rely on good blood supply to operate efficiently, circulatory disorders can damage your hearing, too.

Stress can also aggravate those who suffer from tinnitus -- a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears.  Although this condition isn't harmful to your hearing, it sure can be annoying. Researchers at the medical center in Hanover Germany study the effects stress has on individuals with a history of tinnitus. They've discovered those who worried the most about their tinnitus were also more likely to have sleep disorders, depression and anxiety.

So how can you reduce the amount of stress in your life and protect your hearing health? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the best way to handle stress is by taking care of yourself.

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. In addition to increasing stress, excessive use of drugs and alcohol may also damage your hearing health.  Scientists in Germany discovered that cumulative, life-long alcohol abuse damages the central auditory pathways; some drugs and medications -- such as pain killers and chemotherapy drugs -- are ototoxic.
  • Find support. If you find you're overwhelmed, look for someone who can help you. Begin with your family physician. Many hospitals offer free support group meetings for a variety of health conditions and life experiences.
  • Connect socially. Maintain good relationships with family and friends. Take time to enjoy their company.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, get good sleep and be mindful of your emotional health.
  • Stay active. Exercise, volunteer in your community and become involved in activities that allow you to get up and move. When you are happy and healthy, your entire body - including your hearing - reaps the rewards.

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