The Connection Between Stress and Hearing Loss

The Connection Between Stress and Hearing Loss

In Hearing Loss by Jennifer Douberly, Au.D.

Of Course Hearing Loss Causes Stress

Hearing loss is so much more common than most people know. There are various reasons for this. It is an invisible disability, meaning you cannot tell by looking at someone if they suffer from hearing loss. It is also underrepresented and commonly misrepresented in popular culture. It is rarely as sensational as it will likely be portrayed on television, on which any character who lives with hearing loss is defined entirely by it. 

And sadly, many people fail to recognize how common hearing loss really is because so many people live in denial even when they themselves are experiencing it. 

Again, there are various reasons for this. It comes on so incredibly incrementally, it is literally impossible to recognize the symptoms. And even if you do come to accept the fact that it is happening to you, you will most likely downplay its significance for many reasons. Maybe it’s just difficult to admit that you are getting older. Maybe you think it is just a minor inconvenience that you can just adapt without much trouble. Maybe you figure it probably is not that serious because it is so common. 

The Facts and The Consequences 

Consider the facts: Almost 14% of everyone in the U.S. aged 18 and above suffers some detectable degree of disabling hearing loss. This ratio of the population increases with age until, sadly and astonishingly, more than half of everyone aged 75 and above endures it. 

Even more troubling, less than 20% of everyone who suffers from it seeks appropriate care. And among the people that do seek help, they delay an average of seven years between considering that they may need help and actually seeking it. 

And just consider the consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated. First, obviously, hearing loss causes trouble at the root of communication. Following conversations with multiple people or in public spaces becomes especially difficult. Such difficulty literally creates stress. 

I’ll explain. The background energy in your brain is being eaten up more than ever before simply to decode other’s messages. This extra energy expenditure causes fatigue that you are most likely unable to attribute. 

More often than not this will unconsciously prompt you to withdraw socially. And social withdrawal leads to loneliness which causes more stress. Loneliness causes depression, which creates yet more stress. Every step of the way, feeling overwhelmed and out of control, hearing loss compounds stress.   

Stress Also Causes Hearing Loss

And the reversal of the cause and effect here, while not as common, is also true. Stress can cause hearing loss. This means that it is not only vital for your stress levels to maintain your hearing health, it is also equally vital for your hearing health to maintain your stress levels.

Just consider how common stress is in our culture. Anxiety and stress are so normalized, they are practically celebrated as symbols of strength and endurance. We celebrate them as badges that prove our dedication to our careers and our loyalty to the culture of infinite growth.

But so many health problems are caused by stress. And hearing loss is one of the lesser-known consequences of allowing stress to overwhelm you. Stress causes heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and any one of those can cause hearing loss. 

Healthy hearing depends on normal circulation. The minute mechanics of our ears, the tiny hairs that register sound and transmit signals to our brains to translate into meaning and spatial orientation all depend on healthy blood flow. Anything less will lead to hearing that is compromised in one way or another. Poor circulation can cause not only the drop out of certain frequency ranges, but also tinnitus. Even the sleep lost due to stress can compound hearing troubles. It causes abnormally frequent yawning which causes excessive pressure in your ears. 

Take Action Today 

Take a quick break. Disrupt the momentum of your stress by stepping away from its causes. Even just a moment of doing this is enough to defeat it. 

Regular exercise will improve your circulation.

Smiling and laughing will increase the range of your face muscles, which eases tension by releasing relaxing signals to your brain. 

And seek immediate care for any underlying conditions. Remember that hearing loss is irreversible, but easily manageable with appropriate care.