We all know that sleep is crucial to our physical health and mental wellbeing, giving body and mind the chance to rest and recharge. And we all know how it feels when you don’t get a good night’s rest – sluggish, exhausted, and just out of it. Those with insomnia may feel this every day—and face a higher risk of developing side effects like depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Insomnia can also be detrimental to your hearing health, leading to hearing loss and worsening tinnitus symptoms.
Poor cardiovascular health
Perhaps the biggest link between lack of sleep and diminished hearing is the effect of insomnia on the cardiovascular system. Insufficient sleep is known to cause poor blood circulation throughout the body, including your ears. Since the tiny hair cells in the ear that detect sound waves and translate them to the brain depend on strong blood flow to function properly, any cardiovascular issues can damage these fragile cells and cause hearing loss.
Connection to sleep apnea
Another factor could be sleep apnea. About 43 percent of people with insomnia also have sleep apnea, which causes patients breathing issues that often wake them up repeatedly throughout the night. Since studies have revealed that people with sleep apnea often have larger amounts of plaque in their blood vessels, the condition might further constrict blood flow to the hair cells and damage hearing.
Effects on tinnitus sufferers
Hearing loss isn’t the only way insomnia can affect your hearing health—it can also worsen the symptoms of tinnitus, or the phantom ringing, buzzing, humming, or whistling some people experience. One study found that insomnia can have a negative effect on those with tinnitus, increasing the perceived severity of tinnitus, decreasing their tolerance of the condition, and worsening its functional and emotional toll. It can often be a vicious cycle, as focusing on the tinnitus can make it difficult to fall asleep, and lack of sleep makes tinnitus seem much worse.
Just as with hearing loss, the longer you put off seeking treatment for insomnia, the more drastic its effects can be. That’s why it’s important to talk to a doctor about your insomnia and what you can do to get a better night’s sleep. And if you already have hearing loss or tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find the best course of treatment.