No one wants to live with stress. We know it causes a host of other problems, from keeping us up at night and losing sleep, to interfering with performance at work, and damaging family relationships. What you might not know is that stress and hypertension are also linked to hearing loss.
Negative Consequences of Stress
Stress is a natural part of life. It’s your body’s way of dealing with difficult situations by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream that give you a burst of energy or strength. The fight or flight response was crucial to our survival when we had to run for our lives, or hunt to survive. But in modern society, the stress response isn’t so beneficial. In our fast-paced lives where we face stressors every day or even every hour, this stress response is extremely damaging, as it wears us down and exhausts our bodies. And don’t think stress is just impacting you emotionally. Stress is a huge health risk, weakening your immune system, leading to anxiety attacks, headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and more.
Stress can Cause Hearing Loss
The fragile hair cells in the inner ear rely on a steady stream of blood to receive sufficient oxygen and other nutrients. However, stress disturbs blood circulation throughout the body. When your body responds to stress, the overproduction of adrenaline reduces blood flow to the ears, affecting hearing. Without a constant blood flow, the ear cells are damaged or even destroyed. It can even cause immediate hearing loss if you become so stressed that blood flow to the ears is stopped entirely.
Hypertension, or the high blood pressure that invariably comes along with stress, has severe hearing repercussions, especially among those over 65. Chronic stress in the form of hypertension often leads to hearing loss and tinnitus. It can gradually worsen hearing, lead to sudden hearing loss, and cause tinnitus. The symptoms of hearing loss due to stress include a stuffed or blocked feeling in the ears, pressure or pain in the ear, complete loss of hearing in one or both ears, or muffled sounds.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Many studies have linked stress to tinnitus, both as a cause and as a symptom. Tinnitus is the experience of hearing noises without an external stimulus, such as ringing, buzzing, or whistling, and these can be unsettling, annoying, or even painful. Tinnitus is often an early warning sign of hearing loss. A study by S. Herbert found that approximately 53% of those with tinnitus said their symptoms started at a stressful period of their lives, or got significantly worse at a stressful time. It’s a vicious cycle, as stress causes tinnitus which causes more stress which causes even more tinnitus. In most cases, more stress equals more tinnitus.
How to De-stress
When you’re stressed, you might not notice how many sounds you’re missing, or realize how severe the problem has become. If you have hearing loss due to stress, the first step is to reduce your stress levels and prevent further damage.
If you’re stressed right now, take a big breath. Take a few. Allow your body to relax, and breathe normally. Breathing deeply will lower your heartbeat, relax your muscles, reduce blood pressure, and decrease metabolism. If you ever notice that you’re stressed, take a few minutes to breathe, or walk away from the stressful situation for a few minutes.
It’s important to make time every day to do things you love. Whether it’s listening to music, going for a swim, making yourself a cup of tea, starting a new hobby, or just watching TV, take the time to unwind. You can also practice some relaxation techniques such a yoga or mediation.
While being stressed can lead to hearing loss, struggling with hearing loss or tinnitus can also cause a lot of stress in your life. Don’t live with this stress or let it get the best of you. Look after your physical and mental health, and safeguard your hearing. Make time for that bubble bath, and de-stress. Then visit the My Hearing Centers location nearest you and let our hearing professionals help you. With comprehensive hearing tests and personalized advice, we’ll work with you to find the hearing device that will change your life.