Can Stress Cause Hearing Loss?

In 2019, it was reported that over half of the US population experiences stress during the day. The finding, from Gallup’s 2019 data on emotional states, shows that Americans  experience  more than 20% more stress compared to the rest of the world.

This year, the stress factor has increased. In fact, currently 80% of Americans stress about the future.

When we think of stress, our first thought is that it’s bad for us. However, it’s not quite that black and white. Stress is our body’s response to a situation that requires action or adaptation. Some forms of stress, like exercise, are actually beneficial.

The stress that has poor implications is the persistent stress of daily worries. Unfortunately, exactly that type of stress so many of us are experiencing in this day and age.

Long term stress can impact your health, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Stress causes a physiological response in our bodys, including: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Release of the stress hormone

Unlike with a short-term burst of stress (like exercise), long-term stress doesn’t turn off these stress responses. This prolonged stress can affect your immune system, sleep patterns, digestive system, and more.

If left unchecked, over a longer period of time this can lead to more serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or blood pressure. It may even impact your hearing.

Can Stress Cause Hearing Loss?

Our ears are delicate systems. They rely on a continual supply of oxygen-rich blood to function. Therefore, anything that interferes with this blood flow can impair our hearing.

The cells in our ears rely on the oxygen carried by our blood. The delicate hair calls of our inner ears are especially reliant on this oxygen-rich blood. These hair cells play an important role in translating sounds in our environments into electrical signals that our brain’s can process.

When the cells do not get enough oxygen, they can die off. This results in less sound information being received by our ears and processed by our brains. This can result in sensorineural hearing loss.

Stress and Tinnitus

Stress can also impact your hearing in another way - namely tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of sound that is not produced by a source external to your body. Common symptoms include buzzing, ringing, hissing or humming.

High blood pressure, a potential complication of prolonged stress, can lead to pulsatile tinnitus.

How to Reduce Your Stress Levels

It’s important that we are able to acknowledge and address stressors in our life. Addressing high-stress levels can have significant benefits to your well-being. Plus it can help protect your hearing!

Below are tips from the American Psychological Association to help reduce your stress levels: 

  • Practice meditation - 5 - 10 minutes of daily meditation can help with your stress levels. Focusing on your breathing helps slow your breathing and heart rate down. Take a moment to breathe right now.
  • Take a break - Is it obvious what is causing the stress? Give yourself permission to walk away from the situation for a break. Try to shift your mindset, a short walk around the block can help with this. That way, you can come back re-charged ready to tackle the issue. This break can also be a “sound break” if you are in a noisy environment.
  • Exercise - Daily exercise has wonderful physical benefits. But it can also help your stress levels. 20 minutes of daily exercise can work wonders. Find something you enjoy, and take the time each day to do it. It could be a walk, a bike ride, a workout video - anything!
  • Smile - It sounds odd. Relieve stress by smiling! However, research is showing that smiling during periods of stress can help.
  • Talk about it - Talking about your stress can be a huge relief. Talk to your friends and family, you’ll be surprised how much better you can feel. If you’d rather speak to a professional, here’s a list of apps that you can use.

Don’t let hearing loss add to your stress burden. Stay on top of your hearing health with regular hearing assessments. Book in with the team at HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology) by calling us on 607-323-4061. Alternatively, click here to request an appointment online.

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