Most of us understand how sleep is critical for both physical and mental health. However, there is a consequence of poor sleep you may not suspect: hearing loss. For those who suffer from insomnia – trouble falling or staying asleep – this lack of sleep can increase risk of hearing loss and worsen tinnitus. It’s important to seek help for insomnia right away to reduce these risks.
Cardiovascular Health & Hearing Loss
The greatest link between lack of sleep and hearing impairment is the impact insomnia has on the cardiovascular system. Insufficient sleep leads to poor blood circulation, including within your ears.
Within the inner ears are tiny hair cells called stereocilia, which are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy that travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. When these cells do not receive enough oxygen from blood flow, they die. Once dead, they cannot regenerate, and permanent sensorineural hearing loss is the result.
It’s important to get enough sleep for a healthy cardiovascular system that provides sufficient blood to the inner ear.
Sleep Apnea & Hearing Loss
Another connection between poor sleep and hearing loss is related to sleep apnea. Approximately 43% of people with insomnia also experience sleep apnea, a condition that causes patients to stop breathing and wake up repeatedly throughout the night.
Studies have shown that people with sleep apnea tend to have more plaque in their blood vessels, constricting blood flow throughout the body and also to the inner ear.
Poor Sleep & Tinnitus
In addition to being linked to hearing loss, insomnia can also exacerbate tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of sound – usually a ringing, hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or whooshing – with no external source.
One study found that insomnia can increase the perceived severity of tinnitus, decrease tolerance to sounds and worsen the functional and emotional toll of symptoms. This becomes a vicious cycle, as poor sleep worsens tinnitus, which in turn makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
To schedule a hearing test or talk with a hearing professional about tinnitus management options, call the experts at Indiana Hearing Specialists today.