Have you been finding it hard to sleep recently? It might be a problem with your ears. The relationship between sleep and hearing loss is a complicated issue for the nearly 40 million Americans out there with hearing loss, and your hearing loss may affect your sleep quality more than you know.
For all the questions about hearing loss and sleep, perhaps the most intriguing one is this: As hearing loss is generally associated with the inability to hear sounds, does hearing loss actually make it easier to sleep, or does the stress of hearing loss make it more difficult? We’ll attempt to explore this question below.
How important is sleep for our health?
Sleep is extremely essential to your general health and well-being, and if you’ve had a week of bad sleep, you’re going to begin experiencing many adverse health effects as a result. You may be struggling with irritability and moodiness, and you may have trouble concentrating on your work, as well as staying alert when driving. The risk of complications like heart disease, elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and even diabetes is increased.
Not only is it essential to get enough time to sleep to wake up rested, but it is also essential to achieve a state of deep sleep for a set amount of time. Sleep scientists argue that delta sleep, which is a deep, dreamless sleep, is essential to maintaining memory formation, regulating mood, and achieving that feeling that you have had a good nights’ sleep.
How hearing loss and deafness can impact sleep
There have been various studies on the impact of deafness and developed hearing loss on sleep.
Those who are born Deaf have distinct patterns of sleep than those who develop hearing loss as they grow up. Generally speaking, those with congenital deafness sleep less and report a higher rate of insomnia. Some scientists think that this absence of restful sleep may have to do with the fact that those with congenital deafness also report higher levels of depression, which can severely impact sleep levels.
Like those with complete deafness, those with later-life hearing loss tend to have greater levels of anxiety as well. The connection with sleep disturbances, however, is uncertain.
A recent study indicates that there is actually higher quality sleep for those who develop hearing loss later in life. Researchers believe that this finding may have to do with the lack of disturbing sounds that can sometimes stop those with normal hearing from getting a complete night’s sleep. These older adults may be able to sleep through the night without noticing any distracting sounds.
However, another study has come to the exact opposite conclusion – that two-thirds of people with hearing loss have reported insomnia. In this research, the researchers suspect that psychological stress may be one reason for sleep loss. Depression and insomnia are often intimately linked, and one can be the other’s cause or symptom. Depression rates are high for individuals with hearing loss, leading many hearing health experts to conclude that mood disorders may be one of the triggers of sleep problems.
What about tinnitus?
Roughly 90 percent of tinnitus cases occur with an underlying hearing loss, according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Symptoms of tinnitus are aggravated by not having enough quality sleep, as well as the depression and anxiety occasionally caused by loss of sleep.
Fortunately, one phase of this cycle can be treated to provide sleep relief. Tinnitus itself is generally handled with a mixture of counseling and what is known as sound therapy. If you have ever used a white noise machine to block out the sound of tinnitus, this is an effective type of sound therapy. Because silence can improve the symptoms of tinnitus, introducing background noise can make it easier to fall asleep.
If you think you have a hearing loss, please contact us at the Hearing Group. We can test your hearing and identify a hearing aid that can help you maintain the connections with your friends, family and co-workers. Once you have a couple of hearing aids to help you hear better throughout the day, you can also begin to sleep better at night.