We all feel stress from time to time. In our busy lives, it’s not unusual for everyone to feel stressed at one time or another. High stress levels have been linked to a number of health problems. But can stress cause hearing loss?
When we talk about stress, we are often considering it’s impact on our mental and physical health. Stress is how our body responds to anything that requires adaption or action. Examples of this are when we exercise or the “fight or flight” response.
Not all stress is bad, but repetitive worries do have many negative health implications as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
These psychological stressors actually cause physiological changes i.e. increased heart and breathing rate and the release of stress hormones. Unfortunately when there’s no physical action needed (such as running away), the body gets no signal to return to normal. Then, this triggered state persists and leads to the physical and mental fatigue.
If this is a regular pattern, bodily functions are impacted. This could include the immune and digestive systems, sleep patterns and declining energy levels. Left untreated, serious health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can develop, conditions that are also linked to hearing loss.
Hearing health relies upon a good supply of oxygenated blood. Therefore, anything that hinders blood flow to the ears could result in reduced hearing ability. The hair cells of the inner ear are very fragile and they become damaged when blood flow is reduced for a sustained period.
This is significant because they are responsible for converting sound into electrical signals, ready for the brain to interpret. Less functioning cells means the inner ear is less efficient and the brain receives less information, this is sensorineural hearing loss.
Stress related high blood pressure can also lead to pulsatile tinnitus due to poor circulation.
The American Psychological Association provides a lot of helpful advice to combat high stress. Their evidence suggests that there are many health and well-being benefits in doing this including protecting your hearing.
Daily quiet time – Build up slowly and be patient with yourself. Aim for 5-10 minutes with your eyes closed just focus on breathing deeply. This simple activity will slow your heart rate, increase the oxygen in your body and reduce stress hormone levels.
Get some distance between you and the problem – Take a break for 20 minutes. A brisk walk or listening to some uplifting tunes are ideal distractions. Try to avoid electronics or over-analyzing, your aim is to get into a better headspace and feel refreshed.
Get moving – Find an activity that you enjoy and allow yourself just 20 minutes each day to escape into it. This could be a bike ride, following a quick online workout, walking a dog or some yoga! Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Smile – Look for things or people that make you smile or laugh and turn to them when you feel worried or stressed. Doing this will release tension in the facial muscles and it can even give you a dose of happy hormones (Even if you don’t feel like it).
Talk it through – Make an agreement with someone to listen to each other’s day without judgement and allow yourselves to offload the stress. Take it in turns to speak or listen. It’s very cathartic, and feels good to help others and accept that you’re not the only one dealing with stress.
If you are worried about your hearing, don’t stress. The hearing care professionals at Clear Wave Hearing Center are on hand to help. Call us today on 507-208-7002 or click here to book your complimentary hearing assessment today.