Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes difficulty falling or staying asleep. Conservative estimates indicate 10-30% of adults live with chronic insomnia. Left untreated, insomnia can lead you to have mood problems, trouble focusing, anxiety, slow reaction time, higher risk of falling, and higher risk of health issues like high blood pressure and obesity.
It may surprise you to learn that there is another risk of untreated insomnia: hearing loss. We explain the links between these conditions below.
Insomnia & Cardiovascular Problems
One of the strongest links between insomnia and hearing loss is that both are comorbidities of cardiovascular disease. Research has established that insufficient sleep causes poor blood circulation throughout the body, including the ears. Your inner ears rely on healthy blood flow to help you hear.
Within the inner ear are tiny hair cells called stereocilia. These cells convert incoming soundwaves into electrical energy that travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. When these cells don’t receive enough oxygen from the blood, they can die. Once dead, they do not regenerate, and the result is permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
Insomnia & Sleep Apnea
Approximately 43% of people with insomnia also have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder that can be very serious if left untreated. Sleep apnea causes the sleeper to repeatedly stop breathing in their sleep. In severe cases, this can occur as many as 30 times per hour.
Studies show that people with sleep apnea often have larger quantities of plaque in the blood vessels. This means constricted blood flow to the inner ears and cell starvation.
Insomnia & Tinnitus
Hearing loss isn’t the only condition that can be exacerbated by poor sleep. It can also worsen symptoms of tinnitus, which is a ringing, roaring, whistling, whooshing or hissing sound in the ears with no external sound source.
One study revealed that insomnia can increase perceived severity of tinnitus, decrease a person’s tolerance of the condition and worsen its functional and emotional toll. This often becomes a vicious cycle, as poor sleep prompts worse tinnitus, which in turn prevents good sleep.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at LeMay Hearing & Balance today.