3 things to know about how stress can affect your hearing

Almost every day people have stressful experiences. Sometimes stress is good as it provides extra strength and energy to handle a dangerous situation, or to meet a physical or mental demand. But prolonged stress can wreak havoc on your body and cause health problems, including hearing loss. Here are three things to know about how stress can affect your hearing.

1. Challenging problems – Americans are stressed about many things, such as work, family, relationships, and finances. Constant stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Healthy Hearing reports that about 40 percent of adults experience sleepless nights due to stress. Over 75 percent of people schedule doctor’s appointments to deal with stress-related issues, including hearing.

2. Impact on hearing– When your body is under constant stress, you can’t relax. Adrenaline levels increase, and breathing can become faster, slowing the flow of oxygen through the body, including into your ears. Sensory hairs inside the ear are responsible for detecting sounds and sending messages to the brain where they are recognized. When oxygen levels are low, these hairs can be damaged, resulting in hearing loss.

Researchers also discovered that low oxygen level raises blood pressure and can trigger pulsatile tinnitus. People describe this condition as a rhythmic pulsating hissing or whooshing sound that matches their heartbeat.

3. Reducing stress– The secret to handling stress is learning to cope with it. To protect your health and your hearing against stress, the American Heart Association provides three suggestions:

  • Positive self-talk– Everyone makes mistakes. Instead of berating yourself over a wrong decision and stressing out, engage in an encouraging pep talk. The situation or problem won’t look so bleak, and your stress level will be lower.
  • Relax– When feeling stressed, take time to escape from the hectic pace. Listen to soothing music, take a walk, hug your pet, meditate, or enjoy some yoga.
  • Defuse stress – Often people say and do things when they’re stressed that they later regret. Here are some ideas to quickly manage stress:
    • Count to 10 before speaking or reacting.
    • Take several slow, deep breaths.
    • Excuse yourself from the situation for 5-10 minutes.
    • Meet a friend for coffee or a meal, and enjoy light conversation.
    • If possible, push off a difficult decision for a few hours or until the next day. In the meantime, clear your head by exercising or getting extra sleep, or both.