Alaska Sleep Education Center

Sleep Disorders And Their Effect On Hearing

Posted by Emma Williams on Aug 30, 2021 5:35:00 AM

It is well known that the quality of our sleep can have a profound effect on our overall health and sense of wellbeing, but can it specifically affect our hearing?

Our overall health can certainly affect the health of our hearing, and lack of quality sleep can play a part in this. Our ears are remarkable structures that contain thousands of blood vessels and nerve endings, and when these are under the attack of stress, it can damage our ability to hear.


Man and his hearing aide.

Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash


What are sleep disorders?

A sleep disorder is a medically diagnosable condition in which the healthy sleep patterns of an individual are interrupted. Some are severe enough to cause significant physical, mental, emotional, and social health issues in sufferers. 

What is insomnia?

Insomnia can be defined as an inability to fall and/or stay asleep for as long as is needed for optimal health. When left untreated, it can lead to subsequent health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, and increased risks of stroke. Sadly, it is a common issue suffered by many adults, with stress being a significant contributory factor.

Common side effects of insomnia include physical and mental fatigue, exhaustion, and a general sense of having low energy reserves. Sluggishness, irritability, and chronic yawning are also commonly experienced throughout the day as a result of insomnia. 

What is sleep apnea?

There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common one is called ‘obstructive sleep apnea.’ This type occurs when the tissues and muscles that surround an individual’s airways relax so much that they obstruct their breathing. Sleep apnea causes the sufferer to wake frequently through the night, snore, and wake up feeling unrested.

As well as snoring, other symptoms include choking or waking up gasping, headaches, sleepiness throughout the day, irritability, and other cognitive issues. It can also place a strain on their heart and increase the person’s risk of developing heart disease.

How do sleep disorders affect hearing?

When it comes to insomnia, studies have indicated that it can lead to a decline in the quality of a sufferer’s blood circulation, which can in turn result in impaired hearing. If severe insomnia negatively affects a person’s cardiovascular system, the resulting poor circulation can damage the arteries located in the inner ear. This can lead to gradual or even sudden hearing loss. It should be routine for anyone diagnosed with poor circulation to have their hearing medically tested.

It is not known for certain whether sleep apnea is a causal factor in hearing loss. That said, sleep apnea does reduce the flow of blood to the ears, and the ears need a healthy blood supply to function optimally. Many years of loud snoring can also affect hearing in itself, as the snorer’s ears contain delicate hairs that can be permanently damaged and lead to the most common type of (permanent) hearing loss, called sensorineural hearing loss.

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes patients are 50% more likely to suffer from some form of hearing impairment. Interestingly, hearing loss can also be an indicator of diabetes, so if you are suffering from a hearing impairment, you should consult with a medical practitioner to assess your risk of diabetes as a matter of course.

It has long been known by medical professionals that hearing loss can be impaired by the presence of circulatory issues, with research demonstrating that heart disease sufferers are also twice as likely to experience problems with their hearing.

There are common associations understood between sleep disorders and conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity, as well as a considerable link between generalized inflammation and how such systemic issues can affect our inner ear. Prolonged inflammation of our arteries and blood vessels can result in damage being caused that restricts and narrows the path of blood flow to the inner ears. 

Circulatory issues can also lead to a variety of symptoms such as dizziness or tinnitus. Tinnitus is a hearing disorder in which a person experiences hearing phantom sounds like ringing in their ears. Sleep disorders can worsen the condition of tinnitus, creating a decreased level of tolerance for the symptoms, which can then create a vicious cycle of worsening insomnia.

Seek medical diagnosis and treatment

If you suffer from any form of sleep disorder, it is important to seek medical guidance. Not only can such disorders make daily life difficult to enjoy, but prolonged poor quality sleep can lead to a variety of other physical and mental health conditions.

Suffering from sleep disorders can certainly affect the health of your hearing system, so even if you are yet to experience any difficulties, get your hearing checked by an audiologist as a matter of routine. 

If you are experiencing hearing loss issues, it is essential for your overall well-being to not leave it untreated. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, hearing loss can lead to a broad range of difficulties, such as social withdrawal, depression, and anxiety. 

When it comes to treating hearing loss, there are many options available to you, both via the traditional route of audiology consultations, and/or by considering online solutions when it comes to hearing aids. An audiologist can of course assist you in prescribing and fitting the best options when it comes to hearing aids, but these days, more and more people are looking to online hearing aids for affordability and convenience. There are many online hearing aid reviews to assist you in your decision, such as the nano hearing aids reviews, but the most important thing is to not leave your condition untreated.

Final thoughts

Good quality sleep is essential for our overall health, so if you are struggling for whatever reason, seek help and consider what lifestyle changes you can make to improve it.

When it comes to your hearing, whether you are experiencing any difficulties or not, get your hearing checked as a matter of routine, especially if you suffer from any sleeping disorders. Understanding such conditions early on can only improve your chances of minimizing the damage. 

If you are suffering from a sleep disorder and need help, speak with your primary care physician or call the Alaska Sleep Clinic today  @ 907-357-6700.

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Topics: sleep disorders, hearing

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