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Stress, hearing loss and tinnitus linked

Contributed by , staff writer for Healthy Hearing

"I'm so stressed out right now."

Most, if not all of us have said that at some point in our lives. That's because most of us experience stress in a very real and tangible way. Medically speaking, stress is your body’s way of responding to any type of physical or emotional demands by releasing chemicals into the blood which give you more energy and strength. A little bit of stress can be a good thing — especially if you’re in a dangerous situation — but a lot of stress can wreak havoc on your health, including your hearing. 

stress, hearing loss, tinnitus
While some stress is normal in everyday life, 
excessive stress can lead to many health 
problems, including tinnitus and hearing loss.
If you think you are suffering from either malady,
contact your hearing healthcare physician for
a check up.

According to the medical professionals at WebMD:

  • 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress
  • 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress related ailments and complaints
  • Stress can be attributed to health problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety.

You can also add tinnitus and hearing loss to the list, according to Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. They developed a questionnaire, asking survey participants 120 questions how they would report stress relating to their: psychosocial work environment, physical work environment, lifestyle, physical health and mental health.

The researchers also asked participants three questions about their hearing health, focusing on tinnitus and the ability to hear normal conversations. They discovered that respondents reporting stress relating to poor sleep and bad health were more likely to complain of tinnitus and hearing loss. Those who experienced stress in the workplace also complained of tinnitus and hearing loss. Both men and women in the study reported their hearing loss was worse when they perceived themselves to be in bad health.

Stress and your hearing

The researchers' findings are congruent with reports across the medical community. According to the World Health Organization, hearing loss is fast becoming one of the most common disabilities in the world. Although many types of hearing loss are not preventable, reducing the stress levels in your life can be beneficial to your hearing health.

The American Heart Association suggests four simple techniques for managing stress:

  1. Self talk. Admit it — you talk to yourself all day long! Make sure what you’re saying is positive, as it can help calm you down and control stress. 
  2. Emergency Stress Stoppers. When you find yourself getting stressed, find a healthy, constructive way to deal with stress on the spot. Count to ten. Take a few deep breaths. Walk away from the situation for a while. 
  3. Find pleasure. Try to do at least one thing each day that gives you pleasure, even if it only takes 15 minutes. Read a book. Have coffee with a friend. Take up a new hobby or revive an old one.
  4. Daily relaxation. Learn and practice relaxation skills such as yoga, tai chi or meditation.

Of course, the best way to know whether stress is affecting your hearing is to see your hearing healthcare professional. At your exam, be sure to discuss with them your concerns and ways to decrease stress in your daily life as improving your lifestyle may also improve your hearing health. To find a hearing healthcare professional in your area, visit our “find a professional” section.

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