Hearing loss and sleep: a surprising connection

For years, researchers have been studying the connections between hearing loss and physical & mental health, and they’ve discovered a lot of interesting things in that process, like that hearing loss can impact your balance and that heart disease can cause hearing loss

Since our bodies are so interconnected, it should come as no surprise that hearing loss and sleep are also strongly connected. Sleep is a crucial element of our overall health, and lack of sleep (or sleeping disorders like insomnia) can be detrimental to your health in a few different ways, including how you hear.

So, how exactly are sleep and hearing loss connected? Interestingly enough, they are interrelated and each impacts the other in its own unique way.

How is sleep affected by hearing loss?

One of the biggest causes of sleep deprivation and disruption is noise, which is why folks who live on busy roads or in the heart of major cities are more likely to have trouble sleeping. But, if your hearing loss makes it harder to hear, you’d think that hearing loss would make it easier to sleep, right? Not necessarily! 

While there are some folks who sleep better as their hearing loss gets worse, the opposite is far more common. While it may seem counterintuitive, sleep problems like insomnia are actually more prevalent among the hearing-impaired population, and a lot of that stems from the high rate of hearing-impaired folks that also deal with tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing sounds in one or both ears that aren’t really there. This can take the form of humming, buzzing, hissing, or ringing, and folks with noise-induced hearing loss are usually at the highest risk for developing tinnitus.

With the sensation of noise that’s not really there, tinnitus can actually make it really hard to fall asleep and, depending on the severity of the condition, make it harder to stay asleep, too. 

Do sleep disorders cause hearing loss?

While there is definitely a strong connection and causality of hearing loss impacting sleep, lack of sleep and some sleeping conditions can actually cause hearing impairment, too.

Insomnia, for example, has been shown to cause poor blood circulation, which is a critical part of how our ears function, allowing us to hear properly. If your blood is not circulating thoroughly through your body, the arteries in your ear are probably not getting the blood flow they need to function, which can lead to issues with our hearing and even cause hearing loss.

Even more interestingly, in the same way tinnitus makes sleeping more difficult, lack of sleep can also make tinnitus worse, creating a somewhat unfortunate, never-ending cycle where tinnitus and poor sleep are magnifying each other and making each condition worse over time. 

What can you do to lessen the impact of hearing loss on sleep?

If sleep disorders are affecting your life, maybe it’s time to see a sleep specialist. But, if you’re also noticing hearing-related issues as a result of poor sleep, an audiologist is probably the next call you should make!

Luckily, there are several ways a hearing care specialist can help lessen the impact of your hearing loss on sleep. For example, if tinnitus is causing insomnia, they can help treat your tinnitus. There are also a few studies that have shown the use of hearing aids to improve sleep problems, including ones where tinnitus is at the center. 

However, it’s not usually recommended that you wear your hearing aids at night, mainly because they can be uncomfortable for sleeping and it’s important to let your devices air out overnight. If you think this may help you, have a chat with your hearing care provider, and they will be able to provide the best recommendation! 

While there is still plenty of research to be done on the connection between hearing loss and sleep, no one can argue that sleep is a critical element of our health and well-being, and, once again, hearing health and hearing loss play a unique role.

Ready to take control of your hearing? The friendly folks at Beltone Tristate are ready to help you on your journey to better hearing health! Contact your local Beltone practice for a FREE consultation and hearing test today.