Take The Pressure Down

Stress can be good and bad. Good stress (eustress) is the excitement you feel when you’re getting married, achieving that goal or being offered a great job. Negative stress is the modern disease and the root cause of many ill-health conditions; it can even impact your hearing.

At a basic level, when we encounter a stressor, our body responds by releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which provides a burst of energy or strength. The blood vessels constrict and divert more oxygen to the muscles, which increases a person’s strength to take action. However, it also raises blood pressure and frequent or chronic stress can make your heart work too hard over long periods. This can cause oxidative damage and inflammation.

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants and can damage cells that may eventually weaken the immune system and lead to a range of diseases. It’s also considered to be the primary mechanism behind impaired nerve endings that results in sensorineural hearing loss – the most common form of hearing loss.

Constant stress stops the body receiving that clear signal to return to normal. Eventually it can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses, which can in turn affect your hearing.

Stress and hearing loss

One side effect of daily stress and the overproduction of adrenaline is the reduction of blood flow throughout the body; including the ears. The hair cells in the inner ear rely on the constant blood flow for delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Without it, those fragile hair cells can become damaged; sometimes permanently.

In one study, Stress and the Onset of Sudden Hearing Loss and Tinnitus (Tinnitus Journal, 2000), 40 hospitalized patients with sudden hearing loss and tinnitus were compared to a control group of inpatients of an ear-nose-throat ward, to test the idea that stress might be a predisposing risk factor in the development of sudden hearing loss and tinnitus.

The study result revealed that patients with sudden hearing loss and tinnitus scored significantly higher on both measures of stress on the life event and daily hassles scales than those in the clinical control group.

Stress and tinnitus

Many studies link stress to tinnitus as both a cause and symptom. The sounds may wax and wane but they tend to be more acute during times of stress. One study found that 53 percent of patients with tinnitus said their symptoms started during a stressful time in their lives, or were exacerbated during stressful periods.

Hypertension and hearing loss 

Stress itself doesn’t cause chronic high blood pressure, however, stress can cause people to adopt poor habits that will. Hypertension, can damage your blood vessels, which can happen anywhere in your body, including your ears. When the blood vessels in your ears are damaged your hearing could be impaired.

Stress and social isolation

Social isolation and loneliness are not only unpleasant, but they also trigger the stress response. Studies have shown that people who are socially isolated have higher levels of cortisol in their bloodstream when they wake up in the morning; the resulting impact on cardiovascular health suggests you’d be better off smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research also indicates that loneliness is twice as likely to kill you than obesity.

Acres of research points to strong links between social isolation, loneliness and untreated hearing loss. As most people with hearing loss find it difficult to hear in background noise and groups, there’s a tendency to start avoiding those situations. This frequently and gradually leads to social isolation, and the disappointment associated with missing out on the interactions you once enjoyed. Hearing loss can also lead to isolation on the domestic front; not a day goes by in the clinic where we don’t hear of couples having separate TV rooms, or being the butt of deaf jokes, or people generally feeling left out.

De-Stress

If you’ve experienced hearing loss because of stress, it would be wise to prevent further damage. If you’re having difficulty dealing with events in your life, you might seek counselling. A problem shared is a problem halved, and new perspectives on your issues can make a big difference.

Exercise

I know that if I pump some iron after a stressful day, I feel great. Do a physical activity that you enjoy, be it dancing, walking, yoga, vacuuming the house, or going to the gym. Exercise and other physical activities produce endorphins, which improves your ability to sleep, reduces stress and makes your body fitter to deal with daily stresses.

Meditation

Meditation has a myriad of physical and mental health benefits. Plus, it helps you relax, become self-aware and gain clarity. Click here to read my blog on meditation.

Do something you love each day

Adopt a daily activity that brings you joy. Listen to music, go for a swim, start a hobby, read or watch something hilarious on TV. Laughing releases tension, boosts immunity and releases endorphins.

As an independent Masters-Qualified audiologist, I am passionate about facilitating your return to fuller participation in life.  My talented team at NeuAudio focuses on hearing and brain health in Melbourne and Brisbane.