Hearing Health

The Role of Stress in Hearing Loss

Something we talk about often on this blog is how much the scientific community still doesn’t know about hearing loss and its relation to other health factors. For example, stress can exacerbate hearing loss, and, in turn, hearing loss can create more stress and can ultimately be detrimental to a person’s physical health.

One of the main pathways through which stress can affect hearing loss is by the disruption of the body’s circulatory system. The tiny hair cells in your inner ear depend on blood flow to function. During stressful periods, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which have been known to limit blood flow to the ears (presumably because the blood is being channeled to muscles and other areas deemed more important in stressful situations).

We all experience stress on occasion, and the body is robust enough to deal with it. The problem occurs when certain individuals experience stress day after day. A permanent disruption of blood flow to the inner ear could have long term consequences to the person’s hearing.

Additionally, chronic stress has been repeatedly linked with hypertension, while hypertension has been linked to hearing loss in those over 65.

Tinnitus, which is not strictly speaking hearing loss but another hearing problem entirely, has also been shown to manifest during times of stress. In fact, many patients’ first episode of tinnitus can be linked to a stressful situation. For tinnitus patients, stress management is one of the techniques used to control symptoms of tinnitus.

Some Tips on Dealing with Stress

  1. Get plenty of sleep – sleep is the body’s time to repair itself, and this can be hard to do if you’re getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.
  2. Drink less coffee (and other caffeine) – these have been shown to increase anxiety and stress, and can make matters worse.
  3. Get some exercise every day – you don’t have to do anything extreme, but at the very least go for a 30 minute walk. This has a number of health benefits, both to your circulatory system and to your mental well being.
  4. Meditate – you don’t have to go out of your way to do anything crazy, but when you begin to feel overwhelmed, take 5 minutes to yourself and clear your mind.
  5. Practice gratitude – it’s easy for us to get caught up in the day-to-day motions of our lives. It’s important to consider the positive side of things, and doing this for just a few minutes daily has been shown to lower stress and promote feelings of happiness.

About Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D. is the owner of Chicago Hearing Services and a Doctor of Audiology dedicated to empowering her patients and the public with greater knowledge and education around hearing health.