Link Between Stress and Hearing Loss

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A Hearing Loss

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

The modern world of today keeps getting faster and faster. As technology advances we become more connected, able to converse all over the world in many different places all at the same time. While there are many amazing advantages to this, it can also make the world a much more stressful place, with less chances to rest and recharge. The problem with stress, especially if it goes unaddressed is that it can lead to so many complications throughout our mind and body. The effects of stress can cause insomnia, which causes exhaustion. This level of fatigue can affect every aspect of our lives, including our relationships at home and work. Now, many researchers have even drawn links between increased stress and hearing loss.

Negative Consequences of Stress

When you are repeatedly exposed to stress your body responds by releasing chemicals like adrenaline into your bloodstream that increases energy and strength in order to cope. While this natural response is a survival response to dangerous or stressful situations when this happens repeatedly due to chronic stress the body can become worn down, compromising the immune system and affecting our mood. Repeated stress has also been linked to headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety attacks, and even heart disease.

Stress and Hearing Loss

So how does stress affect your hearing? Your ears rely on ample blood flow, a specific ratio of oxygen and specific nutrients delivered to the tiny hairs and nerves in your ears in order to send sound information to your brain. The extra adrenaline created due to stress in your body can reduce blood flow to your ears compromising your hearing. When your body is put under the effects of stress, day after day, and year after year the disruption of blood flow due to stress can seriously damage your fragile inner ears, causing permanent hearing loss.

Stress and Hypertension

Hypertension is high blood pressure that often elevates when your body deals with stress. Hypertension when untreated for a long time can damage blood vessels including those associated with the inner ear and hearing. This is just one more reason to deal with stress as your whole entire body relies on healthy blood pressure including your ears..

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Tinnitus can be a ringing buzzing, swooshing sound or more that has no external source. This condition can be frustrating when wishing for silence without success. The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the tiny hairs and nerves of the inner ear, which transmit sound information to the brain. This is the same cause of much hearing loss developed from the natural breakdown of old age or from exposure to loud sounds. Stress can be a companion of tinnitus, as the noises in the head can be very stressful.

In many instances tinnitus can be a very stressful cycle. Tinnitus causes stress and stress causes more extreme tinnitus. As with hearing loss, there is no cure for tinnitus but there are methods recommended to reduce stress, hence reducing your symptoms.

Ways to Reduce Stress

Being intentional about reducing stress is so important for your entire body and well being including reducing tinnitus and protecting your hearing. Some tried and true ways to reduce stress include:

  • Take a moment.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take a moment to step away, catch your breath and decompress. Even 20 minutes away can make a big difference.
  • Exercise. Getting your heart rate up, stretching your limbs and an increased intake of oxygen connected with regular exercise are all great coping mechanisms for stress. Your brain and your body are connected and so if you take care of your body, your brain will also feel less stress.
  • Talk about it. Talk about it with a friend, therapist or keep a journal to get your feelings out of your head.
  • Meditation and Yoga. Both can relax the mind and body.
  • Do the things you love. If you do have hearing loss make sure that you are treating the condition so it is easier for you to hear and you can keep doing the things that bring you joy.