Hearing Loss and Sleep Apnea – The Startling Link
Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, characterized by interrupted sleep because of breathing complications. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation has estimated that 18 million people across the United States suffer from sleep apnea. The disorder is recognizable by snoring with moments of gasping for air and even snorting noises while asleep. As a result, those who suffer from sleep apnea experience fatigue, amongst other obstacles. Recently, however, a startling link has emerged which associates sleep apnea and hearing loss.
Recent studies researched 14,000 participants and revealed that different severities of hearing loss were linked to sleep apnea. However, these studies simply showed an association, but were inconclusive as to which of the two occurred first. Some researchers even suggest that a third variable could have been present which furthermore impacted the two factors.
So What’s the Connection?
Although the immediate connection isn’t directly clear, there are a few theories. Most of which revolve around the idea that both hearing loss and sleep apnea result in inflammation as well as abnormal changes in our blood vessels. The study done to find the link concluded there were many factors, which also contribute such as high blood pressure, cigarette use, alcohol use, family history of hearing loss and being overweight.
The presented study also led researchers to believe that the connection is related to the action of snoring and it’s effects on the body. You see, snoring occurs when throat muscles relax, therefore causing airways to become narrower. As a result, there are vibrations, which could damage our sensitive ears.
In addition, the study showed that sleep apnea was connected with a 31% risk increase in high-impact hearing loss, but a 90% increase in risk of low-impact hearing loss. On the other hand, the sleep disorder was linked to a startling 38% risk increase for both severities of hearing loss.
[Image courtesy of Oravan Osa]