The surprising link between sleep and hearing loss
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t crave a good night’s sleep.
But the fact is that many of us simply don’t get the quality or quantity of sleep that our body needs.
This year, the importance of sleep to the nation’s health was recognised by a ground-breaking government inquiry.
The National Inquiry into Australia’s Sleep Health in Australia was conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport. The study’s results endorsed the Sleep Health Foundation and the Australasian Sleep Association’s four-year campaign to have sleep placed as the third pillar of health, alongside diet and exercise.
The inquiry made 11 practical recommendations on ways Australian’s can drastically improve their sleep health. These included a fully funded, government-sponsored education campaign on sleep health awareness.
Why is sleep so important to our health?
Sleep is crucial for good health. Having a restful sleep helps repair our body and our brain. Sleep helps us function well throughout our day. It helps us concentrate and learn new things.
The downside of not getting enough sleep includes:
- Increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke
- A dampening of your body’s immunity and ability to fight off disease
- An increased likelihood that you’ll gain weight
- A tendency towards depression and anxiety
Sleep experts consider that having 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is about right.
Does being hard of hearing cause sleep problems – or do sleep issues contribute to hearing loss?
There’s also some evidence that sleep deprivation – or insomnia – is common among people with hearing loss and tinnitus.
One small study compared four congenitally deaf males to fifteen men who had normal hearing. The results showed no difference between the deaf and normal hearing subjects in minutes of total sleep or REM time. But it did show that the deaf subjects spent significantly more time awake during the night.
They also spent significantly less time in non-REM sleep, specifically delta (slow wave) sleep. That’s the deep, restorative stage of sleep that helps you feel refreshed. So, the quality of their sleep was not as good.
Another researcher looked at the link between sleep apnoea and hearing damage. Sleep apnoea is a sleeping disorder that causes people to stop breathing during their sleep. It’s a serious problem that’s estimated to cost the Australian economy more than $5.1 billion dollars a year in health care and indirect costs.
The research findings concluded that sleep apnoea causes inflammation and abnormal functioning in the blood vessels. Sleep apnoea was associated with a 31 per cent increase in high-frequency hearing impairment and a 90 per cent increase in low-frequency hearing impairment.
At this stage, the results are considered preliminary, but they do point to a possible link.
Lack of sleep leads to listening fatigue
Whatever the results, it’s clear that lack of sleep affects the brain’s functioning, particularly its central auditory processing. It’s this function that we use to distinguish between different sounds. So, if we’re tired and if we have a hearing loss, listening to conversations is that much harder.
What we recommend
- The key takeaway is to try and get quality sleep.
- If you have difficulties sleeping, or a sleep disorder, see your doctor for their recommendations.
- If you think you may have a hearing loss or tinnitus, take action, sooner rather than later. Wearing hearing aids can help improve your cognitive function – how your brain works – and help you sleep.
If you have any questions about your hearing, please give us a call on 1300 432 776 to make an appointment.
As an independent, family-owned hearing care clinic, you’ll also find we like to look after our clients and offer affordable and competitive prices on all our hearing solutions.