July 13, 2021
Generally, we assume that being stressed is bad for us. Stress = bad. Relaxation = Good. On a biological level, however, it’s not this black and white. Stress is a natural part of life. It is an entirely natural response. It’s our body’s way of reacting to a situation that requires action or adaptation. Certain forms of stress are actually good for us – exercise, for example. But can stress cause hearing loss?
As a nation, we’re stressed. Gallup’s 2019 data on emotional states report highlighted that over half of the population in the U.S. experience stress during the day. On a global scale, Americans can experience up to 20% more stress than other nations.
The past year has only amplified the stress that we’re feeling. Over 80% of us are stressed about the future.
The type of stress that can have serious implications is the ongoing stress of daily worries. Between our jobs, family obligations and social engagements, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, it is this negative type of stress that so many are experiencing.
Acute vs. Long-term Stress
There are different types of stress. Short, quick bursts of stress are known as acute stress. Acute stress can be triggered by something like exercise. Once we are out of the situation (in this case exercising), our body’s stress response subsides. With long-term stress, however, our stress switch is never turned “off.”
The National Institute of Mental Health warns that long term stress can impact your health. Stress causes a physiological response in our bodies, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing rate
- Release of the stress hormone
Unlike with a short-term burst of stress (like exercise), long-term stress doesn’t turn off these stress responses. This prolonged stress can affect your immune system, sleep patterns, digestive system, and more.
If left unchecked, over a longer period of time this can lead to more serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or blood pressure. It may even impact your hearing.
Can Stress Cause Hearing Loss?
Our ears are delicate systems. They rely on a continual supply of oxygen-rich blood to function. As a result, anything that disrupts this blood flow can impair our hearing.
The cells in our ears rely on the oxygen carried by our blood. The delicate hair calls of our inner ears are especially reliant on this oxygen-rich blood. These hair cells play an important role in translating sounds in our environments into electrical signals that our brains can process.
When the cells do not get enough oxygen, they can die off. This results in less sound information being received by our ears and processed by our brains. This can result in sensorineural hearing loss.
Stress and Tinnitus
Stress can also have further impacts on your auditory system. In some situations, stress can trigger tinnitus. Also known as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus is the perception of sounds that are not coming from outside your body. People often report hearing buzzing, ringing, hissing or clicking.
Long-term stress can increase our blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure can lead to pulsatile tinnitus.
How to Reduce Your Stress Levels
Reducing your stress levels first requires acknowledging the source of your stress. It can have significant benefits to your wellbeing, and potentially protect your hearing.
Below are tips from the American Psychological Association to help reduce your stress levels:
- Practice meditation – 5 – 10 minutes of daily meditation can help with your stress levels. Focusing on your breathing helps slow your breathing and heart rate down. Take a moment to breathe right now.
- Take a break – Is it obvious what is causing the stress? Give yourself permission to walk away from the situation for a break. Try to shift your mindset, a short walk around the block can help with this. That way, you can come back re-charged ready to tackle the issue. This break can also be a “sound break” if you are in a noisy environment.
- Exercise – Daily exercise has wonderful physical benefits. But it can also help your stress levels. 20 minutes of daily exercise can work wonders. Find something you enjoy, and take the time each day to do it. It could be a walk, a bike ride, a workout video – anything!
- Smile – It sounds odd. Relieve stress by smiling! However, research is showing that smiling during periods of stress can help.
- Talk about it – Talking about your stress can be a huge relief. Talk to your friends and family, you’ll be surprised how much better you can feel. If you’d rather speak to a professional, here’s a list of apps that you can use.
Don’t let hearing loss add to your stress burden. Stay on top of your hearing health with regular hearing assessments. Book in with the team at Audiology Professionals by calling us on (541) 228-9233. Alternatively, click here to contact us online.