Hearing Loss Research

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Hearing Loss?

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Can Sleep Apnea Cause Hearing Loss?

Think back to when you were little and your parents wouldn’t let you stay up, but instead made you abide by your bedtime. When we are little, we wanted nothing more than to stay up late and enjoy being around friends and family. Funny how when we grow up most of us miss the nights of early bedtimes and a full 8 hours of sleep!

There are so many things that interrupt a good night sleep as an adult. From work or personal stress, getting sick, or having sleep apnea, there are a lot of outside factors that can stop you from having a great night sleep. Sleep apnea is often overlooked as a major issue, unless it is causing something else alarming like high blood pressure or is waking you up 30+ times in a one hour period of time. Sleep apnea is not something to be ignored, especially because it can cause so many other health issues, including hearing loss.

“Yes, that is right sleep apnea can cause hearing loss.”

A previously conducted “large” study has shown that people with sleep apnea have a 30% higher chance of also developing hearing loss. Moderate sleep apnea can increase the risk of hearing loss by 22% while severe sleep apnea can increase chances of suffering from hearing loss by 46%!

How can sleep apnea cause hearing loss?

Normal hearing requires the healthy flow of blood to the ear; so researchers believe the correlation between the two is due to reduced blood flow which is an extremely common with sleep apnea. While further research is required to determine exactly how the symptoms and side effects of sleep apnea can impact the ear, it is commonly known that reduced blood flow and oxygen can in fact damage the ear. Researchers have also questioned whether or not the vibration and noise caused by severe sleep apnea cause both inflammation and noise related hearing impairments. Suffering from sleep apnea means more than just a poor night’s sleep, it can truly be crippling for those who experience it.

If you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea and are worried about hearing loss, you can schedule an appointment for a comprehensive hearing evaluation at Whisper Hearing Center. Our friendly hearing professionals will help you understand each step of the test and what your results mean for you. We offer a few different convenient locations within the San Francisco Bay area and Greater Sacramento area. Find the one nearest to you and give us a call today at (866) 337-1288!

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Everyone Deserves Their Beauty Rest!

In 2014, researchers presented a study at a study American Thoracic Society International Conference on how sleep apnea can affect hearing. The fairly conclusive results discovered that sleep apnea negatively impacts a person’s hearing. In addition, the research showed that sleep apnea can cause both high and low frequency hearing loss.

Sleep apnea is when a person has 15 or more episodes of shallow breathing or pauses breathing completely while asleep (over the course of a 1 hour period). Due to this suppression of oxygen, scientist have noted various issues with blood flow. Since blood flow is vital for your body to function optimally, this lack of oxygen also impacts your ears and hearing. A lack of blood flow can cause damage to the ear. Such that hearing loss may occur.

“What is so important about this study?”

Researchers studied a population of more than 13,000 participants from the Hispanic Community Health Study. The participants consisted of 52% women and had an average age of 41 years old. The team chose this population to mimic an average segment of the world’s population. Amit Chopra, MD conducted the study and made sure all of the participants had prior sleep apnea testing completed in their homes. They used a standard hearing test to gauge their starting level of ability. At the onset, 10% of the total participants demonstrated sleep apnea and 29% of all the participants started with some noticeable hearing loss.

Throughout the study, Dr. Chopra discovered that the participants with sleep apnea had increased hearing loss. His results showed high frequency hearing loss in 31% of the affected patients. More striking, he found a startling 90% loss at low frequencies for those with apnea!

As a result, researchers are now looking deeper into this connection and looking to see how medication for the disorder can possibly help avoid hearing loss concerns.

Do you have trouble sleeping?

If you worry that sleep issues may have had an impact on your hearing, we can help. Contact us for a free hearing assessment to ensure you hear well – and to address any deficits.

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Is Your Hearing Loss Linked to Diabetes?

Hearing loss affects approximately 34.5 million Americans, and approximately 30 million people have diabetes. These statistics make them two of the most prevalent health concerns in America. Beyond these numbers, the overlap of these populations is growing. Research continues on the potential connection between hearing loss and diabetes.

In her 2008 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, Kathleen Bainbridge, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, drew a number of conclusions from national survey data. She concluded that hearing loss is more than twice as common in diabetes patients than in the general population. In addition, 21% exhibited both hearing loss and diabetes, compared to 9% of those surveyed who had some form of hearing impairment but no diabetes. Finally, of the 86 million Americans with prediabetes, rates of hearing loss are 30% higher than adults with normal blood glucose levels. Perhaps, this final group is the most alarming number.

More research?

Current studies show evidence to support a noticeable overlap between the illnesses. Beyond primarily impacting older populations, medical practitioners have several theories as to how the two might be related. The current body of research linking hearing loss and diabetes is still fairly limited. So, we need more research to connect the two health concerns definitively.

What links the conditions?

Diabetes patients have sustained elevated blood glucose levels. This results in damage to many of the fine blood vessels that supply the inner ear. A network of vasculature supplies the cochlea. When patients fail to manage their illness or it goes uncontrolled for too long, it negatively impacts the the inner ear tissue and nerves. This leads to impaired hearing.

Take the Appropriate Course of Action for your hearing loss

Talk to your primary care physician or an endocrinologist to address your diabetes. Our professionals at Whisper Hearing Center can counsel you on your hearing loss. You may need to visit a specialist for a full hearing assessment*. If so, we can work with you decide which treatments suit your needs best. For more information on hearing loss and links to other illnesses, make an appointment or make for a free hearing assessment*.

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Research Links Stroke to Sudden Hearing Loss

The onset of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL) can be a frightening experience. Since it is unpredictable and develops rapidly, it is especially alarming. Most incidents of SSNHL develop within three days and are usually unilateral – affecting only one ear. Individuals may wake up to discover hearing loss, or they may notice it occurring over the course of several days. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is defined as a hearing impairment of at least 30 dB in three sequential frequencies.

Vascular occlusion and hearing

While medical practitioners can’t say definitively what provokes an episode of SSNHL, sometimes the vascular system seems to play a role. Besides vascular occlusion, other causes may include:

  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Ruptured inner ear membranes
  • Tumors
  • Autoimmune diseases

Researchers have focused on understanding the role that the vascular system plays in sudden hearing loss, including strokes. A stroke is brain damage that results from an obstruction in its blood supply. A stroke that occurs in the outer part of the brain stem can impact hearing.

Risk of Stroke Development among SSNHL Patients

Published in 2008 in Stroke, a study based in Taiwan sought to determine whether there was a link between SSNHL episodes and an increased risk of stroke. The study, conducted by Herng-Ching Lin, Pin-Zhir Chao and Hsin-Chien Lee, evaluated 7,115 patients over the course of five years after hospitalization. Of these 7,115 patients, 1,423 of them were hospitalized right after sudden hearing loss. The researchers used the remaining 5,692 appendectomy patients as a control group.

At the conclusion of the five-year study, 621 patients of the entire sample population had experienced a stroke – 180 of whom were SSNHL patients. After the researchers adjusted for gender, income, medical background and other relevant factors, the data indicated that the hazard for having a stroke was 1.64 times greater – more than a 150% increased chance – for SSNHL patients than the control group appendectomy patients. For the first time this study demonstrated that sudden hearing loss may serve as an early warning sign for a stroke.

What Should Patients who have Experienced Sudden Hearing Loss do Next?

Since approximately 40 – 65% of SSNHL cases result in spontaneous recovery, there is hope. However, anyone who has experienced sudden hearing loss should monitor their health and look for signs of impending stroke. According to the 2008 study, the average time between initial SSNHL hospitalization and the onset of stroke was 804 days. Most strokes occurred within the first two years.

After you or a loved one has experienced sudden hearing loss, it’s important to undergo a comprehensive neurological exam and schedule routine follow-ups, even years after the initial event. For more information on hearing and audiological effects of stroke, make an appointment for our free hearing assessment*.

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