If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may also find yourself at risk for hearing loss. Sleep apnea affects millions of adults, resulting in a bad sleep and general health problems. Apnea can cause generalized inflammation, cardiovascular and endocrine problems; these issues contribute to hearing loss.
A recent study of close to 14,000 subjects Latinos in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos found that sleep apnea was associated with a 31 percent increase in high-frequency hearing impairment and a 90 percent growth in low-frequency hearing impairment. These results, while preliminary and in need of further inquiry, highlight the dangers of sleep apnea. But when you take into consideration combined hearing loss – the participants with sleep apnea had a whopping 38 percent increased risk of combined hearing loss.
One of the study’s researchers, Neomi Shah, summarizes these new findings, stating, “Sleep apnea is more of a systemic and chronic disease than just something that happens when you’re sleeping.” Another researcher said, “I was surprised that people with sleep apnea had an increased risk for hearing loss at all levels.”
Since these findings demonstrate only a correlation between sleep apnea and hearing loss, other researchers urge caution when interpreting the findings.
Neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer states, “You wouldn’t know if one comes before the other: sleep apnea appears before hearing loss, or hearing loss appears before sleep apnea, and maybe they don’t come together at all.”
According to sleepfoundation.org Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. Another form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common than central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea, or simply sleep apnea, can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease, and other maladies.
Cochlear Damage: Sleep apnea can damage the vascular flow to the cochlea, which is part of the inner ear. This damage could lead to hearing loss. The volume of a snore is unbelievably high. A snore is defined as anything above 50 dB, but snores of people with sleep apnea have been recorded at 100 dB. This is well above the “safe” limit of 85 dB.
Correlation does not equate to causation. However, this recent research indicates a possible link between sleep apnea and hearing loss. Therefore, our future understanding improves through more focused studies. We now know that there is the potential that treating sleep apnea may improve hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a difficult condition. The earlier your diagnosis, the better the prospects for successful treatment. If you have sleep apnea, get screened for hearing loss. The treatment you receive may improve your sleep and your hearing.