How high stress can lead to hearing loss
Many Americans cope with high levels of stress and anxiety, which are linked to a variety of health problems. Long-term, the physical changes from chronic stress can even trigger hearing loss and other inner ear problems.
Can stress affect hearing?
Yes. When you are constantly stressed, the body doesn’t receive a clear signal to return to normal like it does when the stress is acute or traumatic. That can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses. In turn, these disease affect your hearing.
Stress, hypertension and hearing loss
Just about anything that restricts your circulation—heart disease, diabetes, smoking—is going to negatively impact your hearing. That’s primarily because the small sensory hairs of the inner ear depend on good circulation to perform their delicate task of translating the noise your outer ears collect into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret as recognizable sound.
Each of these inner ear sensors are responsible for translating specific frequencies, so when they are damaged or die, the ability to send that message is affected, too. Hearing loss that occurs as a result of damage to these sensory hair cells is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
What about stress and tinnitus?
Stress can trigger a flare-up in tinnitus or make it harder to ignore via your normal habituation techniques. Stress management is very important when it comes to tinnitus.
Poor circulation can also cause pulsatile tinnitus, a condition sufferers commonly describe as a rhythmic ear noise that pulsates, beats or pumps in time with the heartbeat. Underlying causes of pulsatile tinnitus include high blood pressure, which stress can exacerbate. This kind of tinnitus, known as pulsatile tinnitus, should receive prompt medical attention.
For some people, anxiety can also make their ears feel full or stuffy. Part of this can be due to yawning a lot because you haven't slept well. The excessive yawning shifts around the pressure in the ears, making them feel full.
How to cope with stress and inner ear problems
Although sensorineural hearing loss isn’t reversible in most cases, reducing the amount of stress in your life can protect your hearing from loss due to poor circulation. The American Psychological Association lists these five tips for reducing stress:
If those methods aren't helping, seeking mental health care is recommended.
Your hearing healthcare professional can help
If you’re not hearing as well as you used to, make an appointment to see a hearing healthcare professional. One of the very first things they will do is get to know your personal hearing health and medical history, along with any concerns you may have. After your hearing health history is complete, they will administer a non-invasive hearing evaluation to determine whether or not you have hearing loss. Based on your history and the results of your hearing evaluation, you’ll work together to create a customized treatment plan based on your budget, lifestyle and hearing expectations.