Posted February 7, 2019
Americans of every age and demographic group are stressed. Sometimes stress is positive, giving people a boost of adrenaline to handle tough situations. But chronic stress, often caused by worries over finances, work or relationships, can trigger serious health problems, such as hearing loss. Here are three things to know about stress.
- Changes normal body functions – In stressful situations, the adrenaline hormone kicks in, making the body work harder. Your heart beats faster, breathing rate increases, and blood circulation changes to get oxygen to the brain and muscles. Short-term stress usually doesn’t impact the body. But long-term chronic stress can suppress normal functions and reduce blood flow and oxygen circulation.
- Impacts hearing – Tiny hair cells in the ear translate sounds into electrical impulses that are sent via the auditory nerve to the brain where they are interpreted. These hair cells require healthy blood circulation. When blood flow slows or stops due to excessive stress, the hair cells can be damaged or destroyed, causing hearing loss.
Poor circulation also contributes to pulsatile tinnitus, described as a rhythmic ear noise that beats, pulsates or pumps in time with the heartbeat. Scientists believe pulsatile tinnitus is caused by high blood pressure, which can develop from chronic stress.
Often in the midst of stressful situations, people don’t notice changes in their hearing. But gradually, they become aware that the sounds they’ve normally heard are different. When detecting any difference in hearing, contact your audiologist for a hearing evaluation and treatment.
- It can be managed – Stress is a natural part of life. It’s how you respond to it that makes the difference. The American Psychological Association offers several tips to help people cope with stress:
- Step away – Periodically throughout the day take short breaks from the stress. Get a cup of hot herbal tea, chat with friends, meditate or read a funny story. These breaks help clear your mind, renew focus, and give you a different perspective on the difficult situation.
- Exercise – Schedule at least 20 minutes each day for exercise. A brisk walk or run will refresh the body and mind. Cool water and fresh air help, too.
- Laugh and smile – Medical experts say that laughter (and smiling) is the best medicine. It decreases stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins that help the body feel good.
Hearing loss affects Americans of all ages. Over 20 percent, or 48 million people, have some degree of hearing loss. Learn four ways it can impact people’s lives.